Hundreds of people representing communities locked in long-running land disputes in four provinces came to Phnom Penh yesterday to seek the intervention of Prime Minister Hun Sen, asking him to sign off on an EU-backed initiative to evaluate the conflicts.
The communities from Koh Kong, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey and Kampong Speu provinces yesterday filed a petition to seek the government’s intervention in their disputes with several sugar companies whose state-granted economic land concessions (ELCs) had led to serious human rights violations.
The petition called on the prime minister to sign a draft proposal – financially supported by the EU – for the ministries of commerce, land, agriculture and environment to review their disputes.
The ministries submitted the proposal months ago, Equitable Cambodia head Eang Vuthy said yesterday, but since then, it has languished.
Soeng Sokhum, a representative of more than 700 families in Kampong Speu, said his community’s dispute with tycoon Ly Yong Phat’s company had been ongoing since 2010. “We come for Samdech [Hun Sen] to accelerate the signing.”
Pal Chandara, director of the prime minister’s joint committee for complaint reception, said that he would assign the Ministry of Land Management to solve the issue, “because the ministry has more than 20 teams in the provinces”.
Sit Setha, Yong Phat’s director of land dispute mediation, admitted that 700 families were affected, but maintained most of them had been compensated.
“In the past, we cooperated with the authorities and ministries and solved the problems,” he said.
However, many of those compensated have said they took the money out of desperation.
“I took the compensation because I was hopeless,” said Suon Phorn, 50. “There is no point for [others] to take that $500. They will not be able to purchase a rice field with that amount.”