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Koh Kong villagers bitter over longstanding land dispute

Villagers wait outside the Land Management Ministry, where they submitted a petition relating to a long-standing land dispute in Koh Kong province.
Villagers wait outside the Land Management Ministry, where they submitted a petition relating to a long-standing land dispute in Koh Kong province. Sreng Meng Srun

Koh Kong villagers bitter over longstanding land dispute

Around 400 villagers from Koh Kong province allegedly affected by ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat’s sugar plantations petitioned the Land Management Ministry on Wednesday, demanding compensation packages like those given to a separate group of villagers in March.

In March, 375 families were given compensation packages, including cash and land allocations, after longstanding land disputes against Yong Phat’s Koh Kong Sugar and Koh Kong Plantation.

One hundred and seventy five of those families, led by villager representative Phav Nheung, received $2,500 and 3 hectares of land, with the remainder agreeing to take 1.5 hectares of land.

The 400 villagers who went to the ministry on Wednesday were affected by the same two firms, as well as Heng Huy Agriculture Company, and were monitored by around two dozen Chamkarmon district security guards. They represent around 300 families from Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts in the province.

Village representative Chim Srey Thourn said her group wanted similar compensation packages to those received by Phav Nheung’s group.

“The Land Management Ministry allowed 10 of us to meet and discuss the issue, but we did not reach a solution,” she said. “They said they need time to discuss, and I asked when can we can get an answer, and they said, ‘after the elections’.”

Heang Sokhom, one of the villagers, said that initially, more than 600 families protested the land dispute together, but there was a split in 2016, after local authorities told Srey Thourn’s group to stop protesting if they wanted compensation.

“Please help us to solve our dispute, because in the past we did not protest and we listened to the authorities,” he said.

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