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Protesters threaten road blockage

Protesters threaten road blockage

Residents in Pursat province’s Krakor district say they will resort to drastic measures if a meeting with government officials scheduled for today fails to resolve an ongoing land dispute with a powerful local conglomerate.

The residents, from Ansak Chambar commune, are locked in a dispute with Pheapimex Group, which has started clearing rice paddies and farmland for acacia and cassava plantations.

Local representatives are set to attend a meeting today with government officials to find a solution to the dispute, which has resulted in the gradual bulldozing of the disputed land since 2008.

“Tomorrow, 20 village representatives will meet with CPP officials. If the problem is not solved, we will use our own methods to find a solution,” local representative Sok Chamroeun said yesterday.

He added that recent protests had drawn the attention of local authorities, who had deployed police to keep a watch over them.

Ny Norn, a villager whose land is affected by the clearing, said yesterday that if no solution is found during today’s meeting, villagers plan to stage a sit-in on National Road 5, blocking the busy highway with their cows, buffalo carts and beds. He said the protest would last for two weeks unless the authorities take action to resolve their stand-off with the firm.

“If [we] do not use these methods, [our] farmland and rice paddies will be lost ... authorities have always lied from day to day”, he said.

The 315,028-hectare Pheapimex land concession, which spans Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces, was first granted to the company in January 2000.

The firm, owned by Choeung Sopheap, the wife of Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, has faced criticism because its concession far exceeds the legal limit of 10,000 hectares.

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