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Tycoons at heart of protests

Protesting villagers sit in front of the Pursat provincial hall yesterday as Pursat deputy governor Ty Kimtong
Protesting villagers sit in front of the Pursat provincial hall yesterday as Pursat deputy governor Ty Kimtong addresses their concerns over an ongoing land dispute. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tycoons at heart of protests

Nearly 100 people from separate districts in Pursat province joined forces yesterday to seek a resolution to long-running land disputes with two well-connected companies.

The villagers filed petitions at the provincial hall demanding a resolution to their disputes with Pheapimex Group, owned by the wife of ruling party lawmaker Lao Meng Khin, and MDS International, run by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s adviser Try Pheap.

The Post reported on the findings of an unpublished study earlier this month claiming that Pheap, a tycoon with interests ranging from casinos to cassava, ran a logging scheme involving the transport and sale of laundered rosewood amounting to $220 million in profit over three years.

Members of Pursat’s Veal Veng district charge Pheap’s company with seizing land in 2010 that mostly belongs to veterans’ wives, according to community representative Prak Sophal.

“We demand our land back for farming and we need them to issue land titles to avoid it being appropriated again,” she said.

Pursat’s deputy governor, Khoy Rida, received the petitions and promised to settle the dispute from Kroko district against Pheapimex on October 23, and the one in Veal Veng by November or December.

Pheapimex was granted over 315 hectares in economic land concessions (ELCs) from the government in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang to grow acacias, cassava and other agricultural products.

Even though the provincial government has promised to settle the matter soon, Kroko community representative Lan Sim said she doesn’t trust the system.

“I still think his promise is just a pretext, because this has been going on for years and we never see any resolutions, so I will sleep in front of the provincial hall until October 23 to make sure he keeps his promise”, she said.

“If not, we will go to Phnom Penh.”

To put an end to protracted land disputes, on August 18 Hun Sen said he would take companies to task and create a national commission to evaluate how ELCs given to private companies.

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