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Villagers say SKorean land concession is a threat to livelihoods

Villagers say SKorean land concession is a threat to livelihoods

Takeo province farmers say they will protest a large land grant in adjacent Kampot province that they say keeps them from foraging for food

VILLAGERS in Takeo province say that an economic land concession in an adjacent district in Kampot province will prevent them from foraging for food and firewood in forest area that they have used for decades for their livelihoods, and have said they will protest the grant.

In August the Council of Minister, with the endorsement of Prime Minister Hun Sen, granted South Korea's GS Global Bio Co Ltd 7,918 hectares of land in Kampot's Chum Kiri district to develop a castor oil plantation.

Villagers in Takeo province's Tram Kak district said they became alarmed when they saw local officials Thursday measuring the land and marking off boundaries that would keep them from the forested area that they have been using for more than 20 years, said Prak Sran, a local coordinator for the Cambodian human rights group Adhoc.

"It doesn't matter if it is in another province. We are worried the concession will affect our land," said Tram Kak villager Ham Sengteak, 45.

Private vs State Land

But Yim Pann, the Sre Cheng commune chief in Chum Kiri district, said the land in question was owned by the government.

"The forest land is state land, not private land. No one can own state land," he said.

He said the company has not started to develop the land because it was still working with officials to study the project's effect on the local villages.

"We don't know yet how many families will be affected by the development. There will be compensation," he said.

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