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Locals block bulldozers, fence

Locals block bulldozers, fence

Fifty-seven families embroiled in a decadelong land row with a company owned by the wife of Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem faced off with the firm’s security guards yesterday in Kampong Chhnang’s Kampong Tralach district.

The villagers in April rejected an offer from KDC International, which is owned by Sem’s wife, Chea Kheng, while 33 other families accepted the offer.

No clashes were reported yesterday, and guards withdrew from the area without incident.

Om Sophy, 35, a community representative, said that the villagers had blocked the company’s bulldozers from clearing the land and prevented KDC employees from building a fence around the property.

“The company agreed to give [from $250 to $1,500] to each family, but it is too little,” she said. “With this money, we cannot buy new land or houses.”

Reach Seima, another villager, said the company should not bulldoze the area while the families still live there.

“The villagers have a war of words with the company and block their bulldozers, but they are not violent,” he said.

Thai Hy, a KDC representative, could not be reached for comment.

Hol Veasna, Kampong Tralach district police chief, said the company had “stopped its activity in order to find a solution”.

The protracted dispute has resulted in arrests for a few of the residents, one of which ended with the sentencing of a villager to six years in prison. The row started in 2002, when KDC cleared about 140 hectares of land granted to villagers as a farming concession.

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