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Villagers decry firm’s bulldozing

Nearly 200 residents of eight villages in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district and Oddar Meanchey province’s Banteay Ampil district protested yesterday against a private agro-development company they say is bulldozing their property.

Pov Sopheap, land activist with the Cambodian Centre for Human rights, said that a crowd of 170 villagers blocked machines of the Cheat Aphiwat Co Ltd from razing land yesterday in Banteay Meanchey province’s Banteay Chhmar commune.

This is the fifth such protest that has occurred against the firm since the government granted it a 99-year lease in 2009 to develop a 6,000 hectare plantation, he said.

“Some villagers cursed the company owing to its non-stop bulldozing,” he said.

Although two company soldiers “threatened” the villagers with AK-47 rifles, he said, “there was no shooting”.

After local authorities intervened, villagers returned to their homes and the company “promised to stop bulldozing” until a resolution was reached, he added.

Thma Puok district deputy police chief Luch Chantho confirmed that the villagers had ended their demonstration following police intervention.

“The villagers followed my suggestions and stopped protesting in order to wait for a solution from the local authorities who are examining the size of impact,” he said.

Fifty-year-old villager Yern Sukhorn, who was part of the protest, said the company had already decimated a hectare of her land.

“I do not want any compensation, all I want is the return of my land,” she said.

Representatives of Cheat Aphiwat Co Ltd could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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