On January 26, the Kampot provincial joint committee working group inspected 59 households in Prey Peay village of Chhouk district’s Trapaing Phlaing commune which has a long-standing land dispute with So Nguon Group Co Ltd.
Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Chan Rith told The Post that the inspection of households in the area took place after the villagers went to protest in front of the provincial hall on the evening of January 25.
They reported to provincial governor Cheav Tay that the So Nguon Group had sent their workers to dismantle many houses and clear several hectares of their crops.
“According to our investigation, those villagers were living on state forest land illegally, and the state had recently given that land to So Nguon Group,” he said.
Rith said the provincial authorities have already offered a solution to citizens in that area but some villagers were still clear-cutting the forest and building houses encroaching on the company’s land concession.
However, the provincial working group has now decided to temporarily suspend the demolition of the villager’s houses and the clearing of the villagers’ crops while waiting for a new solution from the provincial level authorities.
Touch Sreymao, 45, is a representative for 107 households of Prey Peay village. She told The Post that in the past few days the So Nguon Group had sent workers to dismantle 10 houses and clear many hectares of crops.
“There is no proper solution yet from the authorities. They just note down the names of the villagers and the number of houses,” she said.
According to Sreymao, initially there were only 20 families in Prey Peay village, Chhouk district’s Trapaing Phlaing commune that had a land dispute with So Nguon group. They had come to live there after the Khmer Rouge integration at the end of 1998.
She added that in 2000 and 2004 another 20 families had arrived. And then at the end of 2015 an additional 40 families had moved in.
“But in the last two to three years there were about 226 families that built cottages in that area and they caused this land dispute,” she said.
So Nguon Group chairman So Nguon told The Post that his company had received land concessions from the government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in 2015 and disputes with people living there prior to 2015 were resolved by allocating land to them via Circular No. 01.
He said that the people who had arrived after 2015 have no valid claim to the land and are unlawfully obstructing the company’s developments there.
“Our company wants to finish the dispute as soon as possible to develop land in the area as planned.
“Prolonging this dispute by chasing after new solutions will lead to a wider land dispute and the loss of the state’s tax revenue,” he said.