The Suoy indigenous people of the Kor Dauntey community in Kampong Speu have expressed concerns over the loss of reserve land for future generations after allegedly receiving a $2,500 per hectare offer.
Khoeun Samrith, of Kor Dauntey village in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune, told The Post on Tuesday that Suoy elders had met the previous day and were told that a cashew plantation owner wanted to buy 10ha of their community land.
Samrith said that while his and around 100 other families had rejected the offer, another 100 wanted the money to help support the community.
“The land is located to the east, next to Takraing river. It is agricultural land reserved for the next generation of young people who have married and lack land for farming to secure their livelihoods."
“If we sell now, we will have no land for future generations,” he said.
Bin Khoeun, a community elder, said the Ministry of Environment had in 2007 set aside 3,083ha of land in the Phnom Oral wildlife sanctuary for Kor Dauntey community Suoy people to build houses, use for farming and hand on to their children.
In 2015, district authorities and sanctuary officials requested to use 305ha of the land for growing seedlings and the building of an indigenous culture centre. However, the land became the private property of a company which grows cashews and fruit, Khoeun said.
In 2017, through district authorities, the community chief and villagers thumb printed the selling of an extra 220ha of community land to the company, with each family receiving $250, he added.
“Now people are asking to buy around 10ha of land, claiming they will help with development, such as building roads and bridges."
“They also said they would create a 5ha cashew plantation for our community, buy five cows and give each family 200,000 riel [$50] if we agree to sell the land to them,” Khoeun said.
Kor Dauntey community chief Phal Noeun acknowledged this was the case but said villagers had not agreed.
The prospective buyer, Chan Y Muoy who is also known as Yeay Ma, had also not confirmed her interest.
“Yeay Ma said she wanted to buy 10ha of land from the community to make a road to her plantation, but villagers in our community have not agreed. The land is an agricultural plot reserved for our community,” Noeun said.
Yeay Ma denied wanting to buy 10ha but said she needed to purchase some of the villagers’ land located in front of hers to build a road.
She said she was worried a Chinese company nearby would soon stop her crossing its land to access hers.
“I did want to buy some land to build a road to mine, but not the 10ha suggested,” she said.
She told the community chief that she wanted to build a road and two bridges in addition to clearing 5ha for the community if they agreed to support her project, but she would not force them if they decided not to, she said.
Chea Hean, the director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, said communal land was for joint use, with no one having the right to sell it.
“Our team is investigating this case to get evidence with which to petition the government,” Hean said, adding that many brokers were currently cheating indigenous people of their land."
Oral district governor Muong Thy said on Wednesday that though the government had allowed the community to manage the land for their livelihoods, they had no right to sell it to anyone who was not a member.
“Selling community land to people who are not members is illegal. We will look into the case,” he said.