Representatives of some 250 families who lost their land to a company in Kampong Speu province filed a complaint with Adhoc yesterday, saying they have yet to receive compensation, even after land measurement volunteers allegedly promised a resolution if villagers voted for the ruling party in last year’s elections.
Soa Pom, 52, one of 60 community representatives, said the dispute between Master International company and the 250 families in Phnom Sruoch district’s Taing Samrong commune began in 2006, when the company took some 950 hectares of the community’s land with the complicity of local authorities.
“Before the election, volunteer [land measurement] students told us to vote for the CPP [Cambodian People’s Party] to get a resolution, but after the election, we never got a resolution,” she said, adding that the village complied with the instructions. “We filed complaints to all the authorities, but in the end, we just got back ugly blame.”
Pom said villagers filed complaints to the then-governor of Kampong Speu province, Kong Heang, and to then-commune chief Piev Lon, as well as members of the officials’ families who also signed the documents selling the land to Master International.
Fellow representative Sao Yuy, 64, said that when local authorities told residents that the land would be sold, they naively expected to receive a share of the proceeds.
“They are like robbers. They robbed our farmland that we lived on and farmed since 1985,” she said. “For [almost] 10 years, while we had the dispute, I never slept well. I always thought, if they grab our farmland, where is our children’s future?”
Ny Chakrya, head of Adhoc‘s monitoring section, said yesterday that his organisation couldn’t even find out what business the firm was in, and that paperwork authorising the sale lacked the usual signatures of high-ranking officials.
“Some of the sale documents – I wonder why only commune and village chiefs signed the agreement without high-level authorities and land management officials,” he said, urging the government to find a resolution to prove its commitment to land reform.
Current Taing Samroung commune chief Kong Sern, who wasn’t involved in the sale, said that “high-level authorities” were investigating the dispute.
Contact details for the company were not available yesterday.