A 20-year-old land dispute in Kandal province between residents of Por Miev village and the Phan Imex construction company hit a new snag on Wednesday when villagers discovered that workers had brought excavation equipment to a parcel of land that borders communal property at the heart of the conflict.
Koki Thom Commune Chief Chan Thou said the Phan Imex workers were clearing the land to build canals but that about 30 families owning some 40 hectares of land next door feared access to their property would be blocked.
The news that Phan Imex representatives were working on the land brought 30 villagers to the area to protest on Wednesday morning. Authorities were present but did not intervene. By about 1pm, the demonstration had put a halt to the construction of the canals.
“After we went to protest, the company ceased its activities, but there were conflicts. There were three or four policemen, and they just stood there,” said Leab Chab, one of the protesting villagers.
The communally owned land has been whittled down over time in incremental sales and Phan Imex has expressed the desire to buy the remainder, though villagers disagree with the price offered.
“The authorities are not working to find a solution for the people, and they also urged people to sell land to the company at the cheapest price, so we cannot sell,” said Chab.
Prak Sophal, a spokesman for Phan Imex, said that he knew that vehicles were brought to the area, but was unable to comment further.
This is not the only land dispute Phan Imex is involved with. As of early 2017, the company was embroiled in conflicts with as many as 554 families in Phnom Penh and Kandal.