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Protesters want an end to satellite city dispute

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Chea Sophat speaks to the media outside the Ministry of Land Management in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. Pha Lina

Protesters want an end to satellite city dispute

Thirty villagers from Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changvar district presented a petition to the Ministry of Land Management on Wednesday, seeking to resolve their dispute with the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) before the July 29 national elections.

The petition contained thumbprints of five villagers: Mao Vantech, 46; Seng Sariem, 41; Ith Navy, 41; Pol Amreth Kitya, 37; and Chea Sophat, 64.

Sophat, who represents 100 families involved in the dispute, said they are victims affected by the $1.6 billion Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) satellite city project.

“Our petition urged the ministry to intervene and stop [the company’s] activities until the dispute is solved. We want some of the land [granted to the OCIC] given back to the people,” the petition said.

Sophat said the company had already filled their 4,153 square metres of land with sand.

“My land has been filled with sand, and the disputed area has been fenced up. I hope the land minister will not ignore our predicament and expect us to deal with Phnom Penh authorities,” he said.

In September 2016 and then again in March last year, Phnom Penh City Hall presented a take-it-or-leave offer of 10 percent of the land, which the villagers declined.

They are demanding that the dispute be resolved before the elections, and are seeking compensation based on current market prices, Sophat said.

He said the villagers had noticed that the ministry was stepping in to help resolve land disputes in various provinces, and hoped it would help them too.

“Why would [the minister] ignore us?” he asked.

The villagers, Sophat said, submitted a similar petition to Chroy Changvar District Hall in March this year, but it was ignored. He claimed they had gone to the Ministry of Land Management multiple times as well.

“This is the fourth time we are petitioning the ministry. On all previous occasions [the ministry] just sent us to Phnom Penh City Hall.

“Now that it has accepted our petition, I hope the ministry will handle the matter directly,” he said.

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