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


  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of