Koh Kong police dispersed a protest in front of the provincial hall around 2am on Tuesday, removing tents and arresting four protestors.
Protestor Ngeth Nhanh, 52, told The Post on Wednesday that 193 families are involved in a dispute with the Union Development Group in Prek Khsach commune, Kiri Sakor district, over 2,209ha. The dispute dates back 12 years.
The protesters set up tents in front of the provincial hall on Monday in an effort to accelerate a solution.
About 30 families were sleeping in the tents when police moved in and ordered them to vacate, detaining the four who ranged in age from 38 to 76.
“When the people protested in Phnom Penh, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction told them to take up the issue at the provincial level, but the problem was not solved,” he said.
More than 100 families have protested to recover land from the company and have requested ownership cards.
A representative of six families was permitted to meet with Koh Kong provincial governor Mithona Phuthong on Tuesday and they discussed the issue for about two hours.
Mai Pov, the representative, said the governor promised to take the request to higher-ups and provide news of a solution within two months.
The governor was asked to sign a letter clarifying the province will solve the problem within two months, but she refused.
“If they promise to allocate land for us, they must promise in a written letter. She refused to do so. They just promised us after doing nothing for 12 years,” Pov said.
The residents said they will continue to protest.
Koh Kong provincial police chief Kong Mono said they can do so as long as they don’t install tents in front of the provincial hall.
“They can continue to protest, but they can’t set up tents that affect the aesthetics of the town and disrupt tourism,” he said.
Koh Kong provincial deputy governor Sok Sothy denied that the authorities have refused to tackle the issue as claimed.
“This case is no longer in the authority of the province. National authorities are in charge of this. A national committee in charge of tackling land disputes is studying the situation,” he said.
Koh Kong provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Thong Chandara, said arresting people is a threat so that they no longer protest in front of the provincial hall.
“They came there because there was no response to their petition. They were promised again and again. When the day they were promised came, they went to the provincial hall,” he said.