About 300 people from six villages in Pursat province’s Kbal Trach commune protested yesterday outside Pheapimex Group’s Krakor district office, the latest confrontation in a land dispute that stretches back 13 years.
Villager representative Duok Sary said they had come to demand that the company explain why it had taken their land and destroyed their property.
“The company did not explain to us, but the commune chief said the company had signed a lease with him that showed the use of our land was only temporary. But the company tore up the document and he [the commune chief] had no evidence against the company,” Duok Sary said.
The government granted a 315,028-hectare economic land concession in Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces in 2000 to the Pheapimex Group, owned by Choeng Sopheap, the wife of CPP senator Lao Meng Khina.
A government sub-decree last year cut 6,714 hectares from the concession for villagers’ use.
Protester Lon Sivy said they wanted the company to stop clearing and return their land, and for the authorities to measure the boundaries between the villagers’ allotment and the company’s.
Kbal Trach commune chief Duong Sarin said he had promised villagers that he would bring their case to the provincial governor and the government to find a resolution.
Ty Kimtok, who is not only the deputy provincial governor but also a Pheapimex company representative, declined to comment.
Ouch Leng, land reform project co-ordinator for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said 19 villagers had been charged with incitement and destruction of the company’s property.
However, no one had been held accountable for the destruction of villagers’ property and a grenade attack that injured 11 protesters outside a Pheapimex office in 2004, he said.
The Chinese supervisor of a Pheapimex cassava plantation in Pursat was shot to death in broad daylight in January.
District police chief Bin Vanna said yesterday the death was still under investigation.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org