Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers in dispute over land for new Kandal airport take fight to province hall

Villagers in dispute over land for new Kandal airport take fight to province hall

Oeung Sary was among hundreds of villagers urging the Kandal provincial authorities today to resolve their land dispute with tycoon Seang Chanheng.
Oeung Sary was among hundreds of villagers urging the Kandal provincial authorities today to resolve their land dispute with tycoon Seang Chanheng. Pha Lina

Villagers in dispute over land for new Kandal airport take fight to province hall

More than 200 people gathered at Kandal Provincial Hall today demanding intervention in a dispute involving tycoon Seang Chanheng near land earmarked for a massive new $1.5 billion airport development.

Protesters from four communes took complaints to Kandal Provincial Governor Mao Phearun, who declined to comment.

Six people summoned by Military Police were due to be questioned today over accusations of “incitement” after they blocked an excavator from digging on what Chanheng characterised as her “legitimate land” earlier this month.

One of those six, Oeung Sary, refused to appear before the Military Police, saying they would only “put pressure” on her and other villagers.

“Why does the one who takes our land file a complaint against us?” she asked. “We will not go to answer. If they want to arrest us, so be it.”

She accused the government of “bias” towards Chanheng’s business – Heng Development Company – and said the government was more likely to “imprison the people” than find them a solution.

Chanheng, who had her US visa cancelled after The Post wrote about the long-running land disputes and disclosed her conviction for forging land titles in Kampong Chhnang last year, doubled down on her claim that she had purchased the land that and villagers subsequently encroached upon it about five years ago.

The villagers, however, claim they have lived on the disputed land since the 1980s and 1990s.

“We saw and knew already, and the truth remains true,” Chanheng said, adding the protesters were “backed” by unnamed people.

“We are writing a letter [calling] for a public forum in order to meet the people accusing us of grabbing their land.”

Several high-ranking officials, including Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, three-star General Duong Heng, Phnom Penh Police Chief Chuon Sovann and Deputy Phnom Penh Governor Koet Chhe, have also laid claims to land in the vicinity and are embroiled in disputes with a number of companies.

Sorn An, 51, from Ampov Prey commune, said her grandmother’s land was sold to Chanheng’s company for 1 million riel ($250) per hectare, but they had not been properly paid, with some villagers receiving just $25 or $50.

“During the negotiation, they [the company] slammed the table in front of us and threatened us, they locked the door and called the police forces,” An said.

Than Khom, from Prek Sleng commune, said she and other villagers were afraid to enter the Military Police office after they prevented machinery from operating on the disputed land.

“People are suffering and are not satisfied with this,” she said. “You should build a huge prison to detain the people in these few communes. We are willing to walk into the prison if they arrest our representatives, and we will keep protesting.”

Updated: 7:02am, Tuesday 20 February 2018

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh authorities ban march for Human Rights Day

    Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless. The UN

  • US Embassy urges reconciliation

    The US has urged Cambodia to restore the independence of the media, drop charges against Kem Sokha and other political prisoners, and end the prohibition of political activity by opposition parties. However, senior government officials see the request, issued by US embassy spokesman Arend C

  • Government deports 235 Chinese scammers

    THE Immigration Department of the Ministry of Interior on Thursday deported 235 Chinese nationals, 35 of whom were female, via the Phnom Penh International Airport for their part in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) online money extortion scam. The deportees were arrested on November 26 over the

  • EU companies voice concern over impact of possible EBA withdrawal

    European companies operating in Cambodia voiced concern over the potential repercussions of removing the Kingdom’s Everything But Arms (EBA) preferential scheme, as the EU Ambassador to Cambodia, George Edgar, led an EU-organised media trip this week. Speaking in Siem Reap province as part of