About 80 families travelling to Phnom Penh from Kampong Chhnang province for a land dispute-related protest yesterday were blocked on their way to the capital and told to resolve the matter locally.
Provincial authorities told the families from Kampong Chhnang’s Tramoung Chrum village that government officials and Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose house they planned on rallying outside of in the hopes that the premier would take notice of their case, were too busy preparing for the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s cremation on February 4 to hear them out.
“We request them to understand and resolve at the district level, because Phnom Penh is busy keeping social and public order for the royal cremation,” said Samaki Meanchey district police chief Eng Sovann.
The villagers are locked in an unusual land feud with an agricultural firm, Ou Kolly Development, which has cleared hundreds of hectares to prepare the groundwork for cassava plantations.
Ou Kolly, who could not be reached, has claimed that in 2011, local representatives of the community sold about 600 hectares to the firm. But not all residents agreed to the deal – or respected it.
Last year, the holdouts took action, and went out farming on a portion of land.
The company complained and the court summonsed seven villagers for questioning.
The protesters yesterday are demanding that the company return 100 hectares for the purposes of subsistence farming.
A representative said that provincial authorities, backed by armed police and military police forces, put barricades on the road at Samaki Meanchey district, though no violence was reported.
“Police and military police forces put the barricades on the road to block us to Phnom Penh,” said one protester, Teu Sen, 25.
Kampong Chhnang provincial co-ordinator for Adhoc, Sam Chankea, said that the seven villagers who farmed on the land in 2012 were accused of intentionally destroying property but that the trial has not started yet.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]