Two villagers in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Trolach district have fled their homes for safety reasons after getting an alarming summons from police in response to their refusal to accept relocation money from KDC International Company, which has been feuding with locals over land for more than a decade.
According to villager Reach Seyma, the district police chief issued the summons to him and neighbour Snguon Nhean on Sunday. Reading what they assumed to be the writing on the wall, they both fled.
“It is weird, especially because it was a Sunday. I got the letter at 1pm and it said I needed to appear at 2pm. I had been told that if I appeared I would have been apprehended for inciting people to reject the compensation offer and making people rebellious,” Seyma said, adding that he will return once he has legal representation.
He and 15 families who rejected compensation were supposed to go to Provincial Hall on April 24 to negotiate, but Seyma wasn’t holding out hope for a resolution, because the committee set up by the government to help resolve compensation issues merely followed the company’s bidding, he claimed.
“They want to threaten me with other people as they did seven years ago,” he said, referring to an incident in 2006 when 16 people were charged with defamation and land grabbing.
The protracted dispute has resulted in jail terms, one of which put a villager behind bars for six years.
Nhean said the committee paid a community representative $3,000, while giving a fraction of that to other families, who wept after realising they had been cheated, he said.
The dispute started in 2002 when KDC, owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem, cleared more than 140 hectares of land granted to villagers as a farming concession.
Dok Sothea, deputy provincial governor and director of the land dispute committee, and Thai Hy, a KDC rep, could not be reached.
Chan Soveth, senior investigator for Adhoc, said the committee didn’t have the will to end disputes and followed the company’s orders instead.