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Cashew farm fight reaches an impasse

Cashew farm fight reaches an impasse

A GROUP of 51 families in Kampong Thom province appeared to be at an impasse with government officials three days after they demanded greater compensation in return for leaving a 7,300-hectare land concession slated for development by a Vietnamese rubber company.

“We asked for about 20,000 riels [about US$5] for each of our cashew trees; otherwise, we cannot accept the compensation because it is not enough,” said So Ley, a representative of the affected village in Popoak commune, Steung district, who said the families had been farming the disputed land since 1999.

Villagers said last week that they had been forced to thumbprint an agreement stipulating that they would receive 5,000 riels per cashew tree.

Local authorities, they said, told them they would not receive any compensation if they refused. The families met with commune officials on Friday to protest the compensation rate.

In November, Cambodia signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnam Rubber Group, a consortium of 14 Vietnamese rubber firms, granting it 100,000 hectares of land. The company involved in the Popoak commune dispute, CKCRII, received a 7,300-hectare concession in the deal. The land had earlier been designated a wildlife preserve under a 1993 Royal decree.

Sam Sang, the Popoak commune chief, said the villagers were not likely to receive a revised compensation offer. “If they don’t agree to this, then they will have to answer to the law. We used to allow them to have their cashew farms on this Royal decree land, but they can’t do that anymore.”

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