Villagers who have lost their land first to a Thai sugar company supplying Coca-Cola and then to a military unit in Oddar Meanchey province’s Samroang district yesterday petitioned the Agriculture Ministry to ask for it back.
The Thai firm, Mitr Phol, pulled out of the three plantations in the province in March, but since that time, soldiers from Brigade 41 have moved in and begun farming and logging.
Smean Te, a representative of 466 families in the district, said the claimants were seeking 5 hectares of land per family and an as-yet undetermined amount of compensation from lost earnings caused by the three Mitr Phol subsidiaries that held the land concessions – Angkor Sugar, Cane and Sugar Valley, and Tonle Sugar Cane. “All we want is to farm again,” he said.
Eang Sophalleth, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, could not be reached.
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for local rights group Licadho, said the government must “consider handing them social land concessions”.
However, Oun Sopheak, Samroang town governor, said that the villagers would not be allowed to return.