About 60 people representing 1,850 families from seven villages in Battambang province’s Sampov Loun district yesterday petitioned Interior Minister Sar Kheng and Prime Minister Hun Sen for intervention in a land dispute.
Villagers claim that district authorities leased 4,095 hectares of their land in Chrey Seima and Serei Meanchey communes to Suon Mean Sambath Co Ltd for 70 years to cultivate agro-industrial crops.
Villager Kao Thoeut, aged 61, of O’Kach village in Chrey Seima commune, said yesterday that local authorities and company representatives had requested that villagers provide pictures of their land plots.
He asked the premier to prevent the company from clearing the affected area.
“Now local authorities and the company are threatening to evict all of us from the village if we do not agree to take pictures and to give thumbprints to them,” he said.
So Phy, president of Sampov Loun district council, said yesterday that when the villages were created in 2008 the residents had not been granted land rights.
Authorities were intending to give each affected family a five-hectare plot of land – but many now occupy larger areas.
“For those who have more than five hectares of land, the state will seize and share it with those who have small plots of land – but the state has a duty to pay US$250 in compensation per hectare to them,” said So Phy.
He added that the company had begun clearing land in Tuol Krasaing village in Serei Meanchey commune, but it had not yet affected the villagers’ crops.
Residents claim that they have farmed on the land since 1998.
Contact details for Suon Mean Sambath Company were not available yesterday.