MORE than 1,000 families in Kampong Speu province face food shortages after being forced to give up their farmland without compensation to make way for economic land concessions granted to companies owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat and his wife, rights activists said.
A field report released by local rights group Adhoc on Thursday accuses Ly Yong Phat and provincial officials of failing to compensate villagers affected by an 8,343-hectare concession granted to the senator’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company in Thpong district.
“We are concerned that in the coming year people will have no food and no rice to eat because it is already the rainy season, but they have no land where they can cultivate crops,” said Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for Adhoc. “The company has built a fence surrounding the disputed land, and is clearing and bulldozing land every day.”
San Thou, a village representative from Omlaing commune, said villagers do not know how they will support themselves in the coming year. “None of us have been able to plant any rice yet,” he said.
Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant for the rights group Licadho, said that the families could face “serious hunger issues”.
“It’s yet another example of [the government] pushing families into further poverty by granting a land concession that affects a large number of families and denies them access to land which represented their livelihoods for many years,” he said.
Kamimura Miku, a coordinator for the People’s Forum on Cambodia, Japan, which co-authored the report with Adhoc, said that in addition to the families still living in Omlaing commune, about 150 families that have moved to a relocation site near Pis Mountain in April are also facing food shortages.
Although villagers have managed to plant a few banana plants and some corn, the site lacks basic infrastructure and is difficult to access by road, she said.
But Pot Doeun, a Thpong district administrative official, dismissed the claims. “I don’t believe that our people will have no food to eat next year,” he said, and added that the people “still have some more land to farm”.
Ly Yong Phat could not be reached on Thursday. Thpong district governor Tuon Song declined to comment.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH