About 500 villagers from six districts in Kratie’s Snoul district protested on National Road 7 yesterday, in a bid to find a solution to their land dispute with two Vietnamese rubber companies.
Cars, trucks and buses were gridlocked from 8:00am to 12:00 pm along National Road 7 – the main road to Kratie – near Svay Chreah commune, one of the communities affected by government land concessions granted to two Vietnamese rubber companies.
“If we do not block the road, the authorities will not find a resolution for us,” said villager Khiev Kong. “If they do not find a solution for us, we will block the road forever, because they have cheated us.”
Villagers cleared the road after the Kratie deputy provincial governor agreed to a meeting between the rubber companies, Phnom Penh authorities and villagers to negotiate a resolution, Khiev Kong said.
A total of 984 families in Svay Chreah commune have requested 5,600 hectares be set aside for their use after a land concession of 8,000 hectares was granted to Dau Thieng (Kratie) Rubber Development Co Ltd and 8,975 hectares was given to Dau Thieng Cambodia Rubber Development Co Ltd in December.
“I don’t know how to find land for these villagers, because the companies have already received the economic land concessions,” said Iv Sophum, Snoul district governor, adding the promised meeting between villagers, authorities and the companies would be held tomorrow.
This is the eighteenth time Svay Chreah villagers have blocked the road seeking intervention in the land dispute, said Ouch Leng, head of rights group Adhoc’s land program.
“They block the road because their situation is hopeless and the government has not found a resolution for them,” Ouch Leng said.
Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned private companies involved in land disputes that concessions could be withdrawn if resolutions were not found. Both companies concerned were unavailable for comment.