Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers in dispute over land by new Kandal airport called for questioning

Villagers in dispute over land by new Kandal airport called for questioning

More than 100 villagers in Kandal Stung district's Prek Sleng commune block bulldozers that they say were encroaching on disputed land earlier this month. Photo supplied
More than 100 villagers in Kandal Stung district's Prek Sleng commune block bulldozers that they say were encroaching on disputed land earlier this month. Photo supplied

Villagers in dispute over land by new Kandal airport called for questioning

Kandal Military Police ordered six villagers locked in a land dispute with tycoon Seang Chanheng to appear for questioning next week after the tycoon accused them of “incitement” and obstructing her machinery.

The order comes two weeks after more than 100 villagers from Kandal Stung district’s Prek Sleng commune blocked Chanheng’s bulldozers from digging a dam on the disputed land, which is adjacent to a massive airport development project announced in January.

Long-running land disputes in several communes of Kandal Stung district have reignited since the project’s announcement.

Oeung Sary, one of the villagers summoned for questioning, said she was undeterred by the order.

”We will go to meet with the Military Police whether they arrest us or not, because we are fighting for our land,” Sary said. “We have no guns or power to fight them with. If they want to jail us, let them jail us.”

Read more: Will huge new airport planned for Kandal see locals stripped of land?

According to Sary, the bulldozer operators refused to say which company they worked for and blamed villagers for forcing them to leave in a rush, causing one of the machines to get stuck in a canal.

“I told them, ‘You were the one who went through it and could not come back. Why are you blaming me?’” she said.

The bitter and at times bloody land dispute between Chanheng and the villagers goes back more than a decade. In 2009, the conflict erupted into violence after district Military Police shot at protesters in a neighbouring commune, injuring two.

Licadho legal advisor Am Sam Ath, who advised some of the villagers at the time, said authorities should resolve the disputes as quickly as possible. “This can lead to protests and violence if the authority does not solve it peacefully,” he said.

A representative for Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, the well-connected development firm leading the airport project, said she could not speak yesterday because it was Chinese New Year.

Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara and ministry spokesman Seng Lot also could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Chanheng, who has been holding a series of lavish ceremonies at her Takhmao villa since Wednesday, said she felt compelled to turn to legal means.

“We do not want to cause problems, but sometimes our patience has limits,” Chanheng said. “We need the law to step in for us in order to prevent some naughty people from causing problems.”

The villagers are ordered to appear for questioning on Monday.

Additional reporting by Daphne Chen


  • Cambodia rejects UN rights claim

    Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva on Friday hit back at David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression after he raised concerns over the repression of free speech and

  • Ex-party leader, gov’t critic named as secretary of state

    A former political party leader known for being critical of the government has been appointed secretary of state at the Ministry of Rural Development, a royal decree dated July 9 said. Sourn Serey Ratha, the former president of the Khmer Power Party (KPP), told The Post

  • Residence cards set for over 80,000 immigrants

    The Ministry of Interior plans to grant residence cards to more than 80,000 immigrants to better keep track of them. The ministry announced the plan on July 10, following the results of an immigration census. “An inter-ministerial committee and many operational working groups have been set up

  • Fifteen Cambodians from Saudi get Covid-19

    The Ministry of Health on Sunday confirmed 15 more imported cases of Covid. The 15 men ‒ all Cambodian aged 21 to 33 ‒ arrived from Saudi Arabia on Friday via a connecting flight in Malaysia. They were travelling with 79 other passengers, three of them women. The ministry said 80 of the

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Vietnamese workers in Koh Kong questioned

    The General Department of Immigration (GDI) is questioning 49 Vietnamese nationals who were working illegally in Koh Kong province to build a case and send them back to Vietnam, its Department of Investigation and Procedure director Kem Sarin said on Thursday. GDI forces and provincial authorities

  • Preah Vihear court drops charges against villagers

    The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has dropped all charges against eight ethnic Kuoy villagers who were in a land dispute with the Hengfu Group Sugar Industry Co Ltd since 2014. Wednesday’s decision was made by the judge who tried the case on June 10. The eight

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism