More than 20 protesters representing 140 families involved in land disputes in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district gathered in front of the Chinese Embassy on Monday to submit a petition requesting it intervene and ask the Union Development Group (UDG) to provide them with compensation.
However, no embassy official emerged to meet them.
Vorn Vy, a representative of the families, said she had come to protest and submit the petition, which relates to disputes in Koh Sdech, Phnhi Meas and Prek Khsach communes, as they had done last year.
She said at that time, they submitted petitions to the US and Chinese embassies, the EU Delegation to Cambodia and the ministries of Environment and Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction asking them to intervene in their decade-long dispute with Chinese company UDG.
“We’re not asking for anything beyond what we’ve lost. I want the company to return our land and houses to us,” she said.
Another protester, Preap Ratha, 37, claims to own nearly 200ha of land and to have lived in the area since 1980.
He said the conflicts started more than 10 years ago when the UDG real estate company came to develop the area.
The company cleared their farmland and destroyed their houses, Ratha said, despite the villagers having legitimate land titles.
“We have proper land titles. When we protested and strongly demanded recompense, they said they wanted to study the issue first. They have been studying for more than 10 years and have not provided us with any resolution. We came here to submit a petition to speed up the process,” he said.
Kiri Sakor district governor Khem Chandy told The Post on Monday that he was aware of the issue.
He said responsibility for solving the dispute had been transferred to a national committee headed by the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.
Chandy said Minister of Environment Say Sam Al had provided resolution to land conflicts in some communes but other disputes have not been solved.
“The people who came here to protest have not received compensation and the authorities are studying the issue. We ask them to wait a little bit because experts are talking with the company,” he said.
Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment on Monday.
Mean Prom Mony, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc said the disputes between the 140 families and Chinese owned UDG had been ongoing for 10 years, and that the company keeps delaying day to day while the authorities only say they are studying and working on it.
Prom Mony said he was not sure if the officials truly wanted to end the dispute.
A number of disputes have been solved, he said, but others have not, so the people who have not received a resolution keep protesting at national institutions and embassies.
“I think that if the relevant officials tried to resolve the matter, the affected people would not keep coming back to protest. If the issues could be solved, the government would gain popularity, the people would benefit and the company would gain too,” Prom Mony said.
Ly Takhai, who used to be UDG’s general manager, declined to comment, claiming he had stopped working for the company almost two years ago and did not know who had replaced him.