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Villagers say firm taking their land

Villagers say firm taking their land

About 100 people in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district yesterday blocked two tractors belonging to a sugar company from ploughing farmland they claim to own, though local officials said the aggrieved villagers had encroached on the company’s property.

The long-running dispute pits villagers from Koki and Ampil communes against foreign-owned firm NK Venture, which acquired 1,200 hectares in the area in 2010 to plant sugarcane. Chan Pharon, a representative of the protesters, claimed the contested 818-hectare plot belongs to 443 families.

“We used that land for farming before the company arrived, so the government should carve it out for us, not the company,” Pharon said, saying the group would petition the Land Ministry for help.

However, the deputy chief of nearby Tbeng village, Eang Sophal, said the locals grabbed NK Venture’s land during a hiatus in the company’s operations between 2013 and 2014.

NK Venture was unreachable yesterday, but protesting villager Mor Sina said the company had ‘‘warned they would come back [today] with 10 tractors’’.

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