Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Koh Kong villagers seek US intervention in land dispute

Koh Kong villagers seek US intervention in land dispute

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Representatives of villagers involved in a long-running land dispute with a Chinese-owned company in Koh Kong province gather at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Thursday to submit a petition seeking its intervention. Photo supplied

Koh Kong villagers seek US intervention in land dispute

Representative of 26 families involved in a long-standing land dispute with a Chinese-owned company in Koh Kong province gathered at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh on Thursday to deliver their petition seeking its intervention.

The villagers said they had lost trust in state institutions after fighting in vain for a compromise for nearly 10 years.

A representative, Taing Koy, told The Post that the 26 families had been locked in the dispute over 432ha in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts with Union Development Group (UDG) since 2010. The dispute broke out after the government granted an economic land concession to the company.

She said the villagers had sought intervention from all state institutions at every level, but to no avail, and had also petitioned the Chinese Embassy, calling for the company to return the land.

“We expect that the superpowers can help urge the [Cambodian] government and China to stop the company violating our rights. We are landowners seeking justice. If there is no justice, we can only keep pushing for a solution,” she said.

US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg told The Post that the embassy would ask the government to find a compromise.

“We continue to urge the Cambodian government to protect the Cambodian people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” she said.

However, government spokesman Phay Siphan said no embassy in the Kingdom had jurisdiction over the case. He stressed that only Cambodian judicial institutions have the power to handle legal issues in line with the Constitution.

“The US Embassy’s objective seems to be politically motivated and aimed at the Chinese Embassy. They [villagers] should not turn to the foreigner [US Embassy] and thereby advance its agenda. I encourage them to go to the Cambodian courts that have the authority to find a solution for them,” he said.

Siphan pointed out that the case had already been settled by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in collaboration with the European Commission.

Soeng Sen Karuna, the spokesman for rights group Adhoc, agreed with Siphan that no embassy had jurisdiction over the issue.

Koh Kong provincial hall spokesman Sok Sothy said on Monday that the dispute persisted because some villagers demanded excessive compensation. He said some of them had also been incited by outsiders to protest while land prices were increasing.

He stressed that the dispute had largely been resolved.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM to vet NY holiday dates

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance submitted a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to formally set a five-day national holiday from August 17-21 to make up for the Khmer New Year holiday in April that was postponed. Finance minister Aun Pornmoniroth sent

  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Snaring may spawn diseases

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has warned that snaring of animals has become a crisis that poses a serious risk to wildlife in Southeast Asia and could spawn the transmission of zoonotic diseases to humans. Its July 9 report entitled Silence of the Snares: Southeast Asia’

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Kingdom produces PPE gear

    Medical supplies from Cambodia have been donated to member countries of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to assist in the fight against Covid-19, said an ADB report published on July 9. The report stated that the supplies were donated as a response to global efforts to

  • Kingdom, US vow stronger ties

    At an academic forum on Saturday to celebrate 70 years of Cambodia-US diplomatic ties, Cambodian researchers and officials expressed hope of encouraging US investments and for that country to deepen and improve its bilateral relations. Held at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, it reviewed the past 70

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea