More than 100 villagers, representing 197 families from Chi Khor Krom and Chi Khor Leu communes in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district, protested again on Wednesday and clashed with authorities in front of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction after the ministry had rejected their claims on Monday.
Det Hour, a representative of the families who hail from Chhouk, Chi Khor and Tany villages in Chi Khor Leu district and Chambak village in Chi Khor Krom commune, told The Post on Wednesday that she came to Phnom Penh to protest again because the ministry had declined to solve their land dispute.
She said the protesters gathered in front of the ministry to demand it find a resolution to their dispute with Heng Huy Agriculture Group, which has been ongoing since 2007.
During Wednesday’s gathering, the authorities clashed with protesters for almost 10 minutes. No one was seriously injured in the incident, but some protesters suffered minor bruises.
Hour said the police warned the protesters not to return because the ministry had decided not to address their concerns.
“I cannot accept it. It’s very unjust. They grabbed my land and gave my rights away, but the officials refuse to give us justice. We need our land back,” she said.
Another protester, In Thou, 40, also told The Post that the ministry’s decision was unfair. She said most of the 197 families had lived and grown crops in the area since 1993, with some villagers coming to live and farm there in 1995.
“In 2007, a private company owned by Okhna Heng Huy cleared the land and destroyed the villagers’ agricultural crops, and even threatened to kill me if I dared to protest,” she said.
Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
A statement issued by the ministry on Monday said a related land dispute involving 987 families over sugar plantation concession land, used to produce sugar for export, had already been resolved.
“For the 197 families who came to protest at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on June 1, claiming they were involved in the land dispute, in fact, they are not involved and will not be given a resolution,” the statement said.
The villagers’ petition requested that 421ha be removed from Heng Huy and returned to villagers. They also demanded compensation of $7,000 per family.
Heng Huy Agriculture Group owner Heng Huy could not be reached for comment.