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Pheapimex under fire again

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A land dispute in Pursat would not be resolved until authorities and the private company involved, Pheapimex Group, held a meeting with villagers to explain how much land would be developed in Krakor district’s Tnort Chum commune, an Adhoc spokesman said yesterday.

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Villagers protest outside a makeshift office owned by the Pheapimex company in Pursat province’s Krakor district yesterday.

As police investigate the apparent murder of 42-year-old cassava plantation supervisor Chang Fi Yiek, who was shot dead in broad daylight on Friday, more than 200 residents called for their rice fields not to be cleared in a protest yesterday in front of the offices of Pheapimex, which is owned by Choeng Sopheap, wife of Cambodian People’s Party senator Lao Meng Khina.

Provincial Adhoc co-ordinator Phuong Sothea said villagers had a right to know how much of their land would be developed.

“If they cannot do this, villagers will not stop protesting,” he said.  

In January, 2000, the government signed an agreement with Pheapimex that granted it 315,028 hectares in Kampong Chhnang and Pursat as an economic land concession to grow cassia.

The government signed a sub-decree last March to reclaim 6,714 hectares from Pheapimex.

Despite the land being returned to residents, Sou Sao, 45, a villager who took part in yesterday’s protest, said the company had already begun clearing villagers’ rice fields about a month ago.

“We would like to ask them to stop clearing our land and give us the right to keep farming on the land,” he said.

“We will come to protest again on January 18.”

Ty Kimtok,  deputy provincial governor and Pheapimex representative, said the company was working only on land that was rightfully its.

On Friday, Chinese man Chang Fi Yiek, 42, the supervisor of a cassava plantation owned by Pheapimex, was shot dead while driving to work in Krakor district.

Ty Kimtok said the company had not been on villagers’ land and distanced the company from the unexplained murder of its employee.

“I cannot say if [the shooting] relates to the land dispute, because police are trying to investigate this issue. I have already filed a complaint to police about the incident.”

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