Residents from seven villages in Takeo province protested against authorities who they said were digging a new reservoir on 200ha of land they have depended upon for years.

The villages are Chi Chrap village, Srah Trakoun village, Lok village, Trapeang Sno village, Phnous village, Trapeang Veng village and Ang Keo village in Traing district’s Sanlong commune.

Protest representative Ith Touch told The Post on April 27 that of the seven villages, three were the most affected by the encroachment: Chi Chrap, Lok and Srah Trakoun.

He did not specify how many families lived in each village but said about 60 families were affected by the development.

Touch explained that villagers have used the land since 1983, and that the authorities had issued a land title, or chicken-wing cards [a common nickname for old land title cards] since 1990.

He added that they tried to stop authorities allowing excavators to dig the new reservoir.

"The main purpose for this reservoir is to rebuild the old one which they [authorities] had sold. So, they need to excavate a new reservoir to respond to the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology, by taking 200ha of people’s land for a new one,” he said.

According to Touch, the protest has been going on since February to prevent the land from being developed and allow people to grow crops for a living.

Sanlong commune chief Lok Sari said that the land was earmarked by the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology for making a reservoir and connecting it to a lake.

Sari added the ministry plans for people to have water for dry season rice. The people who depend on the land are not affected.

The commune chief said that both the provincial governor and the commune authority have signed a contract with the people to build three water gates for rice on the land. After a harvest, people can close the gate and continue to cultivate dry season rice.

According to Sari, the development will not affect people's land, as the authorities will only rehabilitate the canal along the lake. The flooding in 2020 was a natural disaster, not the restoration of the canal.

"When the restoration is complete, we will give them the keys to open, close or drain the water to grow dry season rice. We do it for them, but if they don’t do it then it is their choice. Do not blame us,” he said.

He added that those protestors had ringleaders behind them. They wanted authorities to issue land titles to them, but authorities could not issue titles because of the nearby lake.