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Villagers keep bulldozers at bay

Villagers keep bulldozers at bay

A TWO-WEEK campaign by about 500 villagers has forced the temporary suspension of a private company’s efforts to clear farmland in Kampong Speu province, a district official said yesterday.

Following complaints from villagers, Phnom Srouch district governor Tep Mean said officials had asked a company called Master International Cooperation Group to hold off on clearing any more land until a resolution could be reached.

“We have to wait until we find out how many hectares of villagers’ farmland will be affected,” he said.

The company received a 950-hectare land concession from the provincial governor in 2009 to develop acacia and cashew plantations.

But representatives of residents in three villages in Phnom Srouch district say 250 families have lived for decades on the farmland in question.

Village representative Prum Kean, 52, said he had joined the protest on December 16, after the company brought six bulldozers in to clear the land.

“They brought the police, the military police and the soldiers to protect the company officers while they clear our land,” he said.

Ouk Klim, another representative, said protesting farmers were losing valuable harvest time, but would take the protest to outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s villa in Phnom Penh if a satisfactory resolution is not reached.

“We could not stand and watch the company take over our land, we have to protest,” he said.

He added that local authorities were not aware that many people have lived in the area since “before 1970” and suggested that officials were “partial to the company”.

Representatives from Master International Cooperation Group could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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