AFTER camping out in front of the Kampong Chhnang provincial governor’s office for three days and two nights, about 100 villagers from Kampong Tralach district’s Ta Ches commune plan to block a section of National Road 5 today in an effort to persuade authorities to allow them to plant rice on land that is the subject of a dispute with KDC International Company, representatives said Wednesday.
The dispute, which dates back to 2001, centres on a 145-hectare area of land claimed by 64 families as well as the company, which is headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.
Chheng Rum, a villager who was among those protesting outside the office of Touch Marin, the governor, said Wednesday that the villagers were seeking permission to plant rice soon in order to support their families.
“We wanted to block the road [on Wednesday] but did not have enough people, so we will block the road on Thursday when more villagers can come to help,” he added.
Touch Marin declined to comment on the dispute on Wednesday.
Ouch Leng, land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said local officials have not shown any willingness to engage with the families, and that no negotiations had resulted from this week’s demonstration.
“They do not care about these villagers. They are partial to the company,” he said.
The website of the rights group Licadho states that the families have lived on the disputed land since 1982, but Chea Kheng claims to have purchased the land in 1996 from Thay Hy, a Ta Ches commune councillor.
The land is currently lying fallow, as it has since 2008, when the company constructed a fence around it.