Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Koh Kong land dispute a 'headache', says governor

Koh Kong land dispute a 'headache', says governor

Koh Kong land dispute a 'headache', says governor

A land

dispute between villagers in Sre Ambel district and Cambodian People’s Party

senator Ly Yong Phat threatens to erupt as villagers warn they will block the

road if the company clears any more of their land.

 

They

said they have lived on the land in Koh Kong province – near the northern

border with Thailand – since 1979 when the Khmer Rouge were thrown out. The Koh

Kong Sugar Industry, owned by Phat, has been clearing their farm land and

killing their buffalo without compensating them, they said.

Teng

Kao, a villager from Chhouk village of Chikhor Leu commune, said Koh Kong Sugar

has cleared about 2,000 hectares of villagers’ land.

He

said the 267 families living there plan to block Road No. 48 from Sre Ambel to

Koh Kong province after the Lunar New Year on February 7 if the dispute is not

resolved.

“We

filed many complaints to local authorities. We stopped trying to convince them

because they never care about the difficulties of the people,” Kao said on a

February 5 visit to Phnom Penh. “They served the rich and powerful interests.”

Koh

Kong Deputy Provincial Governor Bin Sam Ol said the dispute was very complicated

and difficult to resolve but that the number of families still disputing the

compensation was only 20, not 200.

“It

gives me a headache. The people who come to protest are the same faces,” Sam Ol

told the Post.

He

said the provincial authorities are unable to resolve the dispute and the Ministry

of Interior’s Secretary of State, Nuth Saan, has visited the area twice trying

to intervene.

Heng

San, a representative from Koh Kong Sugar, disputed the villagers’ story. He

said the company did compensate about 400 families and that only 20 families

have not been paid.

“Our

company does not intend to have a dispute with those villagers,” San said. “Actually

we are very friendly, but a small group of people are provoking them.”

San

said the company planted sugarcane on about 5,000 hectares and has hired 700

workers from the villages and other districts. He said after the Lunar New Year

the cadastral department will come to demarcate the land in the area and the

dispute will end.

Kao,

the villager, said 459 families in three villages were displaced by Koh Kong

Sugar but were subsequently forced to take compensation from company of 150,000

riel to 300,000 riel ($37.5 to $75) per hectare.

“We

lost all our farm land, which we used to grow cashew, mangoes, watermelon, and

jackfruit,” said another villager, An Haiya. “We will use our rights to get our

land back.”

The

sugar company in mid-2006 was granted a 90-year lease on 9,700 hectares in Sre

Ambel. Another 9,400 hectares in Botum Sakor district was granted to the Koh

Kong Plantation Company. Both companies belong to tycoon Yong Phat.

Villagers

in Chhuok, Trapaing Kandorl and Chi Khor claimed that, since arriving in late

2006, Koh Kong Sugar Industry has taken land they had occupied since 1979. They

said company security guards had shot their cows and buffalo when entering their

farms. They said they have sent letters to Senate, National Assembly, Prime

Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, Ministry of Interior and Koh Kong provincial court,

but have not received answers.

Ly

Ping, a lawyer at Community Legal Education Center, who represents the

villagers in their court case, said that Koh Kong provincial court had called

company representative and villagers to meet together but the company officials

did not attend.

“The

majority of villagers did not get compensation from the company yet,” Ping

said.

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