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Locals block excavators

More than 100 villagers in Kampot province’s Chhouk district gathered yesterday to stop three excavators allegedly owned by tycoon Chan Sothea’s agricultural company, which village representatives accuse of clearing more than 400 hectares of their farmland.

Villager Chan Rith said that the excavators were accompanied by four company staffers and two representatives of local authorities, and that the villagers had been told to stop blocking the machinery or face legal action from the company.

“Our farmland was destroyed by them in just two days,” he said. “The company did not find a solution for us.”

Meoun Ratana of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community (CCFC) said that the land being cleared was not part of a concession granted to Sothea’s First Bio-Tech Agricultural (Cambodia) Co Ltd – a concession thought to have been cancelled in 2012.

Rather, he said, it was part of what villagers characterised as a secret deal between Trampaing Thlang commune chief Prum Nhoy and the agriculture company.

Photos of the documents furnished by the CCFC seemed to support the claim.

Nhoy, however, denied the allegations.

“It is not true. I did not have the right to sell that land, which was a big amount,” he said.

“The villagers should file a complaint, not stand there to stop the company’s activity like this,” he continued.

Neither Sothea nor First Bio-Tech could be reached for comment yesterday.

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