FIVE village representatives from Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune say they plan to submit a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen today, asking for intervention in their ongoing dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.
Village representative San Thau said that the community had submitted 1,350 thumbprints along with the letter, which asks the government to set clear boundaries between the villagers’ land and land granted to the company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.
San Thau said about 100 military police and soldiers were safeguarding the company’s land, and that 20 additional excavators were clearing it.
Rights group Licadho, however, suggested that the number of soldiers was closer to 50.
The 9,000-hectare land concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company lies adjacent to a 10,000-hectare land concession awarded to Kampong Speu Sugar Company.
According to Licadho, the companies have enlisted the same representative in dealing with villagers, and both employ soldiers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 313 to watch over their concessions and land-clearing operations.
“We hope villagers, local authorities and company representatives will continue to meet and discuss about land markings/land ownership, and refrain from using violence,” said Naly Pilorge, Licadho’s executive director.
Omlaing commune chief Hab Dam said it was difficult to gain the trust of villagers. “They are afraid that we use fraudulent documents to sell their lands, but we have no right to sell thousands of hectares of land like this,” he said.