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Petitioners offer flip side of Kampong Speu land dispute story

Villagers from Kampong Speu protest at the Ministry of Land Management in Phnom Penh on Friday. Photo supplied
Villagers from Kampong Speu protest at the Ministry of Land Management in Phnom Penh on Friday. Photo supplied

Petitioners offer flip side of Kampong Speu land dispute story

Less than 24 hours after a petition claiming the issue was resolved was submitted to the EU Embassy, nearly 300 Kampong Speu families locked in a six-year land dispute with ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat delivered one of their own to the Ministry of Land Management on Friday.

More than 1,500 families were displaced in 2010 when the senator was granted two economic land concessions to establish plantations for his Phnom Penh Sugar Company.

“Until now, we’ve not received a solution, so we are asking that Land Management Minister Chea Sophara help us after he promised to find a solution to land disputes,” villager Chan Sokkheun said yesterday.

However, Phal Vannak, one of the leaders of Thursday’s delegation, insisted the company had already provided adequate compensation and fair negotiations, noting that the dispute was a “difficult case”.

Lay Phallim, a ministry official who received the petition on Friday, yesterday promised that ministry experts would investigate the case.

Eang Vuthy, executive director of NGO Equitable Cambodia, which represents several hundred involved families, said that Friday’s petition would be a crucial test.

“This case involves a powerful individual and it will show [whether] the government will follow the law . . . regardless of who was involved,” Vuthy said.

Company director Seng Nhak said in an email last night that he was not aware of the cases mentioned in the petition, but that he would ask Phnom Penh Sugar’s corporate socials responsibility team to look into it.

He added that since the company only leases the land from the government, it does not have the authority to return it to its rightful owners.

“This is why we want the names of those claiming the land to pass on to the government so that they can look into this,” Nhak said. “Phnom Penh Sugar is continuing to work with the communities to solve legitimate disputes and is also actively working with villagers to help develop the community.”

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