More than 300 villagers from Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu, Memot, and Stung Trang districts gathered in Phnom Penh on Friday to protest against a plan to relocate them from their land in order to make way for rubber plantations.
The villagers contend they have lived on the land in question since 1979.
They urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene on their behalf against three companies allegedly behind the plan.
One of the companies has been identified as tycoon An Marady’s Chamkar Leu Rubber Plantation. The other two are said to be tycoon Long Sreng’s Memot and Stung Trang rubber plantations.
Friday was the second consecutive day that villagers from Chamkar Leu district’s Bos Khnor and Ta Ong communes protested against the Chamkar Leu Rubber Plantation.
One hundred and fifty villagers gathered in Freedom Park the day before to voice opposition to the palns.
Staff from Chamkar Leu Rubber Plantation had asked families in three villages in Bos Khnor and Ta Ong communes to accept new 10 by 20 metre plots and US$600 in compensation for relocating to a new site, protester Srun Touch, 52, said. However, the new sites lacked necessary infrastructure, including roads and a school.
Meanwhile, staff from Memot Rubber Plantation had asked families in Tramoung commune to accept new 4 by 11 metre plots of land and US$600 in exchange for relocating, commune chief Vinh Ny said.
While these plots were smaller than those offered by Chamkar Leu Rubber plantation, Vinh Ny said the company was nearly finished building the necessary infrastructure for the new village, including
roads, a school, and a market.
Vinh Ny said that so far, about 60 to 70 percent of the villagers had accepted the company’s offer. “Some villagers have volunteered to leave in accordance with the company’s policy,” he said.
Those that have not accepted the offer say they just want to remain on their land.
“We do not want anything from the companies. All we want is to live in our current village,” said Un Si Cheng, 52, from Memot district’s Tramoung commune.
According to documents received by the Post, in March 2008 the government gave 9,121 hectares in Memot district to Memot Rubber Plantation. However, this did not include the protesting villagers’ land. Instead, the land granted to Memot Rubber Plantation went around those villages.
A cabinet official visited Freedom Park and told the villagers to return to their homes, promising to inform them of Hun Sen’s decision.