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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM enters land row involving sugar firm

PM enters land row involving sugar firm

Kampong Speu province
PRIME Minister Hun Sen has weighed in on a controversial land row pitting more than 2,000 families in Kampong Speu province against a prominent ruling-party senator.

In a letter addressed to National Assembly President Heng Samrin, Hun Sen said land had been set aside to accommodate those threatened by a sugar plantation under development by one of the senator’s companies.

After receiving copies of the letter yesterday, residents accused the company of failing to comply with recommendations outlined by the premier.

The dispute pits 11 villages in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune against the Phnom Penh Sugar Co, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, which has been granted a 9,000-hectare sugar concession in the area. Tension erupted into violence in March when a mob of villagers torched a makeshift office owned by the sugar company.

Hun Sen’s letter, issued in response to questions submitted by opposition parliamentarians in March, said the concession agreement with Phnom Penh Sugar was made with the understanding that no development would take place on 1,050 hectares of land “occupied by the people or forests important to the environment”, leaving 8,343 hectares for development as a sugar plantation.

Of the 1,050-hectare area, it promised that 204 hectares would be set aside for landless farmers.

“The company, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and local authorities, has organised 204 hectares of land for people who lack land, and plans to build schools, medical centres, markets and a pagoda for people in this area,” the letter said.

Villagers said they had not seen the letter, dated June 29, before yesterday, and that none of the promises mentioned by Hun Sen had been kept.

“I think that the company received this letter before us, but they did not respect the government.... They regard the prime minister’s words as having no meaning,” said Phal Vannak, a village representative.

A group of 500 residents gathered outside the firm’s office in Omlaing commune yesterday morning in the hope of raising the letter directly with the company, but dispersed just after noon when they received no response.

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