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Villagers seek PM’s intervention

Villagers seek PM’s intervention

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Sau Phum, 47, from Kampong Speu province, speaks to reporters during a protest in Phnom Penh today.

  About 50 representatives from four villages in Kampong Speu province protested today outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to seek his intervention in a land dispute with Master International Corporation Group.

Protesters delivered a petition to an official at the prime minister’s office stating that Kampong Speu Governor Kong Heang ordered the developer to bulldoze their land without providing them with any certified document of approval.

“We are asking the Premier Hun Sen to immediately stop the developer’s activity, because if the developer takes our farmland, how can we make a living,” said village representative Soa Phum.

The protesters, representing 250 families in Kampong Speu’s Phnom Srouch district, said the developer began bulldozing their farmland in December and resumed again earlier this week, accompanied by armed security guards.

Soa Phum said that Phnom Srouch Governor Tep Mean visited the project without offering any help to the villagers at the time.

“The authorities do not help their people, but are likely to stand behind the developer and give away our land,” she said.

Tep Mean said that Master International Corporation Group was legally granted 950 hectares of land from Kampong Speu Governor Kong Heang in 2009 for acacia and cashew plantations.

Kong Heang could not be reached for comment today.

He added that the developer was working only within the area granted in the land concession and had not destroyed the villagers’ land.

“The authorities asked the villagers to point out their property so that we could issue them land titles, and many complied with our request,” he said, adding that he had created a commission to negotiate with the developer.

“We will continue discussions with other villagers about their needs in order to deal with them accordingly.”

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer with the rights group Adhoc, said there had been no resolution for villagers who continued to lose their farmland to economic land concessions granted by the government.

Ean Ellen, director of Master international Corporation Group, could not be reached for comment today.

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