Armed villagers from Kratie province’s Snoul district protested yesterday against district officials and a Vietnamese company who they believe want to cheat them of their farmland.
The rights to 300 hectares of land around Sre Cha commune’s Meanchey village have been highly disputed since 2008, when a Vietnamese company began claiming legal ownership of 1,000 hecatres of land in the area.
Saren Ket, a community representative, said yesterday that district and land management officials told villagers to come to the rice fields in order to claim their land.
But he believes authorities have no intention to reapportion land to the villagers, but instead intend to give it to CIV Co Ltd Development Agro Industry, a Vietnamese rubber company.
“The authorities did not want to give the land to us, the just want to give our land to the company. They just wanted to play a trick on the villagers,” Saren Ket said.
Heng Neth, 49-year-old from Meanchey village, was one of 300 residents – some armed with sickles – who went down to the fields to protest to keep the authorities from measuring the land.
“If they [authorities] really wanted to measure the land for us they should have given documents to company representatives to sign [giving the villagers ownership],”she said.
Deputy director of the provincial land management department Kao Mady Len disputed villagers’ claims that officials wanted to measure the land in order to give it away to the company.
“We still want to provide the land to the villagers, we are not measuring the land for the company,” he said.
Head of the land program for the rights group Adhoc, Ouch Leng, said: “The government should reprimand the company [CIV] because they never attempt to find a resolution for the villagers and they do not respect local authorities.”
Snoul district governor Iv Sophum declined to comment yesterday and Heng Vannak, a representative of CIV, could not be reached.