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Residents in path of highway seek redress

Hundreds of families in Tbong Khmum province have called on the provincial government to negotiate compensation for land they will lose as part of the construction of huge roads in Sralop commune that will form part of a trans-ASEAN highway.

Their lands surround the newly built provincial hall and are near a university and other developments that were inaugurated by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January.

The vast roads will cut through their farmland, but the villagers have yet to receive information about the compensation plan, they say.

Chhay Bunnath, a 64-year-old representative of the claimants, said some of the land had already been cleared to make way for the road system, while in other areas, the villagers had blocked bulldozers from coming in before compensation was negotiated.

He added that he has more than 100 hectares of farmland that the government has registered as eligible for compensation, “but they never said how much. Instead we saw them clearing it to build roads on Monday, so we stopped them.”

The provincial government promised the villagers they would reach a settlement in July, but until that time, they want construction to halt.

Hun Sen opened the new provincial hall on January 5. Built on 322 hectares of state land, the building has not affected the villagers, but the surrounding infrastructure has.

Khoun Oun, 50, said she bought land in the area about two years ago for $40,000 per hectare, but the under-construction road through her 2-hectare plot has slashed its value.

“My land has been cleared, and I was promised compensation, but some villagers refused because they feared they were not being told the truth. Now I am just asking the state to provide fair compensation,” she said.

Sralop commune chief Pheap Socheat said the roads at their widest would span 50 metres, as it is intended to be part of a planned ASEAN superhighway linking Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

“I don’t know how many families will be affected by the whole project, but a few days ago 23 families blocked the construction . . . As I’m at the commune level, I have no authority to solve the problem,” he said.

“I asked the inter-ministerial officials but they do not know how much compensation [to offer].”

Provincial officials could not be reached.

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