AROUND 30 villagers protested in Pursat province on Saturday, managing to halt the clearing of land for a casino project along the Thai border.
Villagers in Veal Veng district’s Thma Da commune say MDS, a local firm owned by tycoon Try Pheap, began encroaching on their farmland, triggering Saturday’s protest.
Moeung Pao, 45, said MDS employees stopped work when she fainted as an excavator escorted by police approached her home. She said she had told them to clear her body instead of the village’s land, but became nervous as the machine got closer.
Other residents also stood in front of their homes and on their land to protest against the clearing, which they claim will affect 84 families and 13 houses in their village.
Moeung Pao said yesterday that she has seen company project maps showing the village lying inside the development zone.
“If they want to take my village for development, why don’t they provide me with compensation?” she said. “I will not act against them if they provide fair compensation.”
Leng Van Doeun, another resident who ran to Moeung Pao’s aid after she fainted, described the protest as “very unjust” for the local people.
She added that if the private firm wanted to take villagers’ land, they should find a resolution rather than stealing it. She also said the silence of the authorities at the commune and district levels had allowed companies to grab their farmland with impunity.
No cause for concern
Thma Da commune chief Prum Ngorn said yesterday he was unaware of the villagers’ protest on Saturday, but that the company’s development should not affect villagers’ farmland or homes.
He claims the company wants to avoid taking over the land, urging residents “not to be worried”.
Soeung Senkaruna, Pursat provincial monitor for rights group Licadho, said the authority should find a resolution for both parties to avoid violence.
“The authority has not found a resolution for villagers, but it has allowed police to deploy to assist MDS employees,” he said. Veal Veng district governor Chhe Chhiv could not be reached for comment yesterday.