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Villagers decry missed meet

Villagers decry missed meet

AROUND 300 Kampong Speu farmers involved in a land dispute with a sugar company owned by Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Yong Phat protested yesterday after a company representative allegedly broke a promise to attend a meeting aimed at resolving the conflict.

On Monday, villagers from Omlaing commune, in Thpong district, blocked National Road 52 in a bid to prevent Phnom Penh Sugar Company workers from clearing their farmland.

Villagers said that after they blocked the road, company representative Chheng Kimsruon agreed to a meeting at the Omlaing commune office, saying she would be “killed by a lightning strike” if she did not attend.

Phal Vanank, a local representative, said the company’s promises were just a ruse to get the villagers to clear the road.

“Everything that company has promised before is a lie, even though under the rain she dared to swear to villagers that she would die if she did not come to the meeting,” he said.

A total of 11 villages in Omlaing commune – home to more than 2,000 families – have been impacted by a 9,000-hectare concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which lies adjacent to a 10,000-hectare concession registered in the name of Ly Yong Phat’s wife, Kim Heang.

Eang Chiva, a villager who joined yesterday’s protest, said that the community planned to block the road in front of the company’s office and burn a photo of Chhen Kimsruon in front of a statue of Yeay Mao, a local spirit, on the highway close to Pich Nil mountain.

“Villagers were cheated by the company again and again,” he said.

When contacted yesterday, Chheang Kimsruon said she was not aware of the meeting, and had thought villagers were meeting with district authorities. “I am bored with the villagers who are against the company,” she said. “We bought the land legally from villagers and have land titles.”

She said that this year, the company planned to plant 1,000 hectares of sugarcane, with 3,000 more to follow in 2011.

Ouch Leng, a land program officer for the rights group Adhoc, said the company clearly had “no willingness” to find a resolution for local villagers, and enjoyed the backing of the local authorities. Thpong district governor Tuon Song declined to comment.

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