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Villagers hope for solution to Kampong Speu land dispute

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Villagers from Kampong Speu protest at the Ministry of Land Management in Phnom Penh last year. Photo supplied

Villagers hope for solution to Kampong Speu land dispute

Villagers from Trapaing Chou commune in Kampong Speu province’s Oral district are hoping that the latest visit by officials from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to their community will help bring a speedy solution to their woes.

The villagers have been locked in a long-running land dispute with a sugar plantation owned by a well-connected tycoon.

Khhorn Korn, 62, was among villagers who met with OHCHR officials in their third visit last week.

As in previous visits, she said the UN delegation asked villagers about the latest development in their dispute with Phnom Penh Sugar, a plantation owned by prominent tycoon Ly Yong Phat.

“I hope their latest visit would help us. Commune officials told us they would find a solution for us after the national elections. After they evicted us, I’ve never received any compensation from them, not even a single penny,” she said.

“We told [OHCHR] that no relevant ministries have come to seek a compromise for us. I was very happy when I saw them."

“I hope they will help expedite the compensation process. They said they would go back to talk with the ministry,” she added.

The last time Korn joined a protest was at the land management ministry in the capital before the July 29 national elections.

“I’ve gone to Phnom Penh many times. The ministry promised to help us after the elections, but so far I’ve seen no one coming."

“We have no money to keep going and we are scared of being arrested. My situation is hopeless. We want to keep protesting until we get a compensation,” she said.

Korn said she lost 3ha to Phnom Penh Sugar in 2010, while her children lost 4ha. “First they cleared our corn and peanut farm, then burned down our house.

“I had been living there since I was born,” she said, adding she had demanded $15,000 in compensation for the 3ha plot."

Soeng Sokhom, another villager who had lost 1.5ha to the company, said he had lost hope in the authority.

“I didn’t sign up when commune officials came to register villagers’ name last month because they were the same people mostly from the sugar company."

“The UN just came to ask if anyone had been threatened, and whether the authority had threatened there would be no solution if they refused to register their name,” he said.

OHCHR closely monitors the resolution.

A previous version of this story incorrectly state that "OHCHR officials could not be reached for comment." In fact, OHCHR closely monitors the resolution.

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