Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land row villagers see hope

Land row villagers see hope

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Villagers locked in Preah Vihear land disputes petition for a solution at PM Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh last week. Heng Chivoan

Land row villagers see hope

The Preah Vihear provincial authority and other relevant parties issued a statement on Wednesday that contained five points aimed to end a land dispute between 330 families and private company Metrei Pheap.

This follows the submission of a petition requesting Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in the matter.

The villagers, from Choam Ksan district’s Yeang commune, had sought the release of 14 people who were placed in pre-trial detention on January 19 for allegedly clearing state forest and grabbing land.

The five-point guidance was released after a meeting between the provincial directors of the departments of environment, agriculture and land management, a Metrei Pheap representative and civil society organisations. It was presided by provincial governor Un Chanda.

Chanda told The Post on Wednesday that all parties agreed to the guidance intended to solve the long-running dispute and that the plan would be implemented next week.

In outlining the five points, he said the first is to create a joint task force to measure the land. Second is the agreement to speed up the registration of Metrei Pheap’s land in order to facilitate the allocation of plots for the villagers.

Third, Metrei Pheap has agreed to clearly determine the boundary of its concession and have enough security guards to prevent further land grabbing, which only hindered finding a solution.

Fourth, the authorities allowed the people to farm the area peacefully, but cease further land grabbing in the disputed areas and await official approval.

Lastly, the provincial court will stop issuing orders to arrest more people.

“Regarding the detained villagers, human rights groups have worked with the provincial court. They filed a complaint at the Appeal Court asking it to grant bail. Therefore, the human rights groups have finished the legal process with the court,” Chanda said.

According to the petition submitted to Hun Sen on January 31, the villagers claimed the dispute started last year after Metrei Pheap, owned by Long Chanveasna, received approval for an agro-industry concession to farm animals on 8,520ha for 50 years.

Metrei Pheap representative Rim Khem told The Post on Wednesday that the company would cooperate with authorities to end the conflict. However, he requested people to stop trespassing on the firm’s property and ignore ill-intentioned people inciting them to grab more land.

“We will cooperate because the company has received investment approval from the government. Regarding quickening of the land registration process and defining boundaries, we will follow the authorities’ instructions,” he said.

Lor Chann, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, who attended the meeting, said he welcomed the guidance.

Adhoc had requested authorities to expedite a solution to the dispute and take specific action to prevent further delays. Chann said that if implemented, the land dispute would be solved.

“If similar cases occur, we should take proactive action. Don’t wait until disputes have already happened. Instead, take action to prevent them."

“If we can prevent issues before they happen, it is better, and the local people should stop all land grabbing and allow the authorities to do their work,” he said.

Lay Ly Huor, a representative of the families, told The Post on Wednesday that if the authorities offered a resolution, the villagers would be willing to cooperate and would prevent anyone clearing more land.

“I would like to ask the authorities and the court to release the 14 people who were detained. If there is resolution to the land dispute, please release them,” he appealed.

MOST VIEWED

  • First deportees of the year touch down in Cambodia

    Twenty-five Cambodian-Americans landed in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, marking the first such deportations of the year. “On Wednesday, US law enforcement authorities deported 25 Cambodian nationals that immigration judges determined had no legal basis to remain in the US,” said Arend Zwartjes, spokesperson for the US

  • Qatar Airways to connect Doha and Siem Reap town

    Qatar Airways Company QCSC has announced a new route connecting Qatar’s capital Doha with Siem Reap, a move hailed by local officials as a significant step to boost tourist numbers. A Qatar Airways representative, speaking at the Kuwait Aviation Show, announced on Thursday that

  • Sokha defence denies Tech’s claims

    ON DAY two of Kem Sokha’s treason trial, lawyers for the government said the defence had raised questions in an attempt to allow their client to make a public statement and a conclusion to the case, something his legal team denied. Ky Tech, a

  • Cambodian general visits Myanmar to enhance national defence cooperation

    Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander-in-chief Vong Pisen is now in Myanmar leading a delegation that aims to improve ties, particularly in national defence, with the fellow Asean member. The timing of Pisen’s four-day visit to the Southeast Asian neighbour is highly symbolic, with

  • Probe underway after wreckage of drone with Chinese characters found

    Air Force Command spokesman Prak Sokha said on Sunday that investigations are underway regarding the wreckage of a drone that was recovered in Koh Kong province’s Koh Sdech commune in Kiri Sakor district. The wreckage has been taken to the capital for further examination,

  • Sokha’s treason trial begins

    The treason trial of Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha began at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday with the presentation of a two-minute video clip. The footage, which was the basis of the charge against him, was dismissed by