After promising in September to quickly resolve a years-long land dispute involving villagers and the politically connected development company KDC International, a member of the National Assembly’s human rights commission visited affected families in Kampong Chhnang province yesterday.
Chea Poch, an opposition lawmaker, said he cooperated with rights group Adhoc and the authorities to study the situation in Kampong Tralach district’s Lorpeang village and collect information from dozens of families who claim to own land in the disputed area.
“When we find out how many families legally own land here and who wants to keep their land or accept compensation, we will speak with the company,” Poch said. “We will try to resolve this according to the law and respect what the villagers want.”
In September, members of the commission vowed to find a solution in a matter of weeks. Poch, however, said yesterday that he did not know how long it would take to resolve the
Villagers greeted Poch with some caution, noting that the commission was well past the deadline it had set itself.
“Last time, they did not inspect the land personally,” Sngoun Nhoeun, a representative of the villagers, said of a previous visit. “This time they should conduct a more thorough study.”
KDC is owned by Chea Kheng, wife of Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem. Families accuse KDC of clearing 145 hectares of their land for development.
Phat Pov Seang, a lawyer representing KDC, said that the company welcomed the investigation.
“But we don’t believe that it will solve the problem, because the people are always demanding money for land that they no longer own,” he said.
“These families sold their land in 1997 but continued to live there and plant rice. The next owner sold the land to KDC in 2007. The company has land titles.”
But Sam Chankear, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said 43 families had a legitimate claim to land in the area.
“They are the real owners,” he said.
Details of exactly how much land each family owned would need to be determined by way of investigation, he added.