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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Private land clearance suspended in Kampot amid protests: official

Private land clearance suspended in Kampot amid protests: official

Camland Co says it has a concession to plant palm oil on area villagers say they've farmed for years, including 1,500 bulldozed hectares.

A PRIVATE company in Kampot province temporarily ceased clearing land Tuesday after four days of protests from villagers, local authorities told the Post earlier this week.

Mer Si, chief of Kampong Chen village, in Teuk Chhou district's Stung Keo commune,  said that the Camland Co had withdrawn its bulldozers from the disputed land after intervention from local authorities.

"The villagers are protesting because Camland has cleared approximately 1,500 hectares of their farmland," Mer Si said Tuesday.

The company says the government granted it a 70-year concession, giving Camland the right to plant palm oil on land covering 16,000 hectares in Teuk Chhou district. It has challenged the villagers claim to the land, saying they have no legal titles, company officials said earlier.

Camland's representative Prak Puthearith could not be reached for comment Thursday.

A local villager, Loey Koun, 42, said that the company had started to bulldoze the land on May 30 without giving villagers adequate warning about their project. Camland's activity has affected the farmland of 500 families across three villages, she said Thursday.

"They have to show us correct documentation or stop clearing our land," Loey Koun said.

Loey Koun said that the land that the company cleared had been collectively owned and farmed for many years. At the time of clearing, the land had both rice crops and fruit trees growing on it, she said.

Try Chhuon, a coordinator for the Cambodian rights group Adhoc who is based at Kampot, said that, although the company had been given permission from the government to plant on the land, Camland still should have informed local villagers about its plans.

"Any development project requires cooperation with local villagers," Try Chhuon said.

"But local authorities seem to have concealed information regarding this particular development, and until people started to take action and protesting, the authorities would not resolve this problem."



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