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Kampong Speu sugar company villagers protest at Land Management Ministry

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A woman from Kampong Speu holds a sign at a protest outside the Land Management Ministry on Thursday. Heng Chivoan

Kampong Speu sugar company villagers protest at Land Management Ministry

Nearly 700 people from different communities in Kampong Speu province protested in front of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on Thursday, seeking a solution to their long-running land dispute with three sugar companies.

The villagers petitioned the ministry to speed up the settlement for the disputants from 14 villages in Oral district’s Trapaing Chou commune, three in Rasmey Samaki commune and six in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune.

They have been embroiled in a land dispute since 2010 with Phnom Penh Sugar Company, Kampong Speu Sugar, and Sugar Plantation, the petition states. The former is owned by tycoon Ly Yong Phat, whereas the existence of the other two could not be ascertained.

In 2010, more than 1,500 families were evicted from the land they had cultivated since the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 to make way for the company’s mega-plantation.

Yub Noeun, a Trapaing Chou commune resident, said she had lost 3ha of land since 2010, adding that she wanted to be compensated $5,000 per hectare instead of the $500 payout for each family which was given by Phnom Penh Sugar in 2016.

Seng Sokhom, who represents the disputants from Oral district, said 20 people were invited to have a dialogue regarding their dispute with a ministry working group.

The protesters, he said, agreed on the ministry’s idea to involve the communities in finding solutions.

“They agreed to work with the representatives [of the communities]. We see that the ministry has softened its attitude. It previously rejected our [involvement] in dispute resolution.”

Another representative Sok Siengheng said previous settlements were made without any participation from the communities.

“The ministry asked us to set a date for them to conduct a visit [to our communities],” she said.

A meeting note seen by The Post on Thursday confirmed that a ministry working group will conduct visits to the respective communities after Khmer New Year.

They will meet with the disputants and collect information from them, it continued.

Ministry spokesman Seng Lot and representatives from Phnom Penh Sugar Company could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

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