More than 1,000 families from four districts in Siem Reap province involved in ongoing land disputes released a joint statement on Friday asking for intervention from government officials.
Villagers involved in six separate land disputes with various private companies in four districts claim a total of 3,138 hectares of land has been taken from them since 2003, according to the statement.
It calls on national government officials to urge provincial authorities to return the land, and urges authorities to stop jailing villagers who attempt to enter land they claim to own.
Tok Pounleuk, a villager from Chi Kraeng district where 175 families claim to have been stripped of 475 hectares of land, said the villagers released the joint statement to inform government leaders that there is solidarity among communities involved in land disputes across the province.
“We lost the land together and we have the same problem, so we have to approach the situation together,” he said.
Banteay Srei villager Keo Sophy said 90 families in her community had been affected after 183 hectares of land was taken from them in 2003.
Keo Sophy said the land had yet to be returned and provincial authorities had been unwilling to intervene.
“We have been waiting for so long. We have decided to issue this joint statement to alert the government officials about the problem, otherwise we will remain cheated,” she said.
On August 26, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that economic land concessions would be withdrawn if the companies they were granted to failed to solve land disputes with villagers who had lived in their concession area for “a long time”.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said the villagers had been dealing with the effects of the land dispute for a long time but provincial authorities had failed to help them.
“We are worried about those who have lost their land . . . they become poorer from one day to the next,” he said.