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Villagers in Kampong Chhnang win land back

Prime Minister Hun Sen has reclassified 4,158 hectares of a massive land concession owned by the wife of Senator Lao Meng Khin from his own party for displaced families in Kampong Chhnang province.

A jubilant representative of the 4,506 families who have long battled against the 315,028 hectare concession granted to Cheung Sopheap’s Pheapimex Group and now stand to benefit thanked the prime minister.

“Now we are very happy after Prime Minister Hun Sen’s voluntary youths re-measured the land for us, but we are still concerned about what will happen in the future,” said Chea Sophon, a representative of villagers in Tek Phos district.

He thanked the premier for taking their difficulties into account and said the victory had come because villagers had exerted themselves through every channel.

In a document from the Royal Book signed by the premier on October 26, 547 plots were granted to 184 families for actual cultivation while 484 hectares was demarcated as a community forest.

In total, 8,200 families have been affected since the 2000 granting of the giant Pheapimex concession to develop plantations across parts of Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigating officer for the rights group Adhoc, heaped rare praise on the goodwill of the government for seeking to find a solution to Cambodia’s endemic land disputes.

“It is a good activity, but on behalf of civil society, I still insist the government spread its policy and mission across the entire country because the land dispute between the villagers and the companies granted ELCs has been pervasive nationwide,” he said. 

Soveth said ELCs should only be approved with consideration of the impacts they will have of social stability.

In May, Hun Sen placed a moratorium on the granting of new economic land concessions and in June announced a nationwide land titling scheme in which thousands of students were dispatched as surveyors.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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