Hundreds of villagers evicted from their homes to make way for a sugar company owned by businessman and ruling party politician Ly Yong Phat protested in Phnom Penh on Monday over an ongoing land dispute in Koh Kong and Preah Vihear provinces.
The 300 protesters, representing some 500 families, appealed to the Ministry of Land Management for help resolving the dispute, after unsuccessfully appealing to provincial authorities.
Kit Ten, a Preah Vihear villager representing the families, said some had received new plots of land as compensation, but cannot accept them.
“That’s why we continue protesting again and again,” he said.
The protestors submitted a petition claiming ruling party spokesman Sous Yara and Chouch Phoeun, national authority in Preah Vihear, colluded with provincial authorities and deployed armed forces to clear the area, destroying homes, schools, hospitals and pagodas.
Yara claimed that the villagers are creating the problem and they had already been paid reparations.
“The problem is created by a small group of bad people only,” he said. “For me, I was not involved in this area.”
Lor Chan, Preah Vihear provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said the area is subject to chronic land disputes and urged authorities to find a solution.
“Provincial authorities should call the people’s representative to discuss and end the dispute because it has lasted for many years,” he said.
Chan said the new land offered to the displaced villagers has not been developed as originally promised, and is not fully inhabitable.
Preab Rotha, representing 210 families from Koh Kong, said villagers were also forced off their land by Yong Phat in 2005. The dispute intensified in 2016 when company officers brought environmental officials to demarcate their land, Rotha said.
Ol Sok Yous, deputy director of the Land Management Ministry, received the petitions from both provinces, and said ministry officials will examine the issue.
“We will check the technical things and it won’t take long to declare the result,” he said.