MORE than 200 armed villagers yesterday occupied a rice field to prevent a company owned by Choeung Sopheap, the wife of Cambodian People’s Party senator Lao Meng Khin, from digging a channel through their rice fields in Pursat province’s Krakor district.
Sok Charoeun, a representative of the villagers, who live in Ansa Chombok commune, said the Pheapimex investment company had sent bulldozers in to begin digging the channel on Tuesday evening.
“Now villagers are ready to fight against the company, and they are sitting on that land to wait for the company,” he said yesterday. “If they come to clear the land today, the villagers don’t have guns but they do have knives and axes.”
He said that if villagers were made to give up all the land granted to the company, they would “lose everything”.
Soeng Senkaruna, provincial coordinator for the rights group Licadho, said that the villagers’ land had been granted to Pheapimex in 2000 as part of an economic land concession that spanned 315,028 hectares in Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces.
He noted that the Land Law calls for such concessions to be capped at 10,000 hectares, and that he did not understand why the company had been granted such a large concession.
“The government should be rethinking this land concession, and should study the impact it has on people,” he said.
A company proposal to grow cassia trees on the land was approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen in February.
Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment yesterday.