Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been on a recent nationwide tour offering “solutions” to locals via populist decrees, yesterday granted 80 hectares of land at a former airport in Preah Vihear to 127 families.
The families had lived on the land since 1993 but were evicted in 2013.
Nut Sophoan, Preah Vihear town’s governor, confirmed the allocation, and said the remaining 71 hectares of the airport in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Palhal commune would be allocated to the provincial authorities.
Lor Chann, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, welcomed the grant and urged the local authorities to implement Hun Sen’s declaration fully.
Also yesterday, five representatives of 367 indigenous families waited at a market in Tbeng Meanchey district to hand a petition to Hun Sen asking that he intervene in a land dispute with Chinese sugar company Rui Feng. Although the premier did not visit the market, the representatives vowed to return today.
“The prime minister is unaware of our dispute with the company,” the petition noted, before accusing the company and local authorities of failing to adhere to Hun Sen’s “tiger skin” policy of allowing communities already living within economic land concessions (ELCs) to retain their land.
Rui Feng, along with four sister firms, holds more than 40,000 hectares of ELCs in Preah Vihear and has faced resistance from local communities for years.
Ang Cheatlom, executive director of Ponlok Khmer, said his NGO had been supporting the families in trying to obtain communal land titles but had so far been rebuffed by local officials.