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Villagers try diplomatic route

Villagers try diplomatic route

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Villagers from Kandal province travelled to Phnom Penh yesterday to deliver petitions to foreign embassies concerning land disputes with private companies. Photo by: Heng Chivoan
About 300 villagers from Kandal province locked in land disputes with private companies delivered petitions to embassies in Phnom Penh yesterday, before protesting in front of the provincial hall and calling for Prime Minister Hun Sen to help them.

Villagers told the Post they wanted an end to land disputes caused by companies that had “seized their land”, adding that they would “rather die” than go home without a result.

They said authorities had ignored their pleas for help while the companies had used the court system to have villagers who complained about the acquisitions arrested.

The protesters, from Ponhea Leu, Kien Svay, Kandal Stung and Takmao districts, also called for the provincial governor to intervene.

Eang Yan, a representative of villagers from Kandal Stung district, said the villagers had asked the rights group Adhoc to check their petitions before delivering them to foreign embassies, the World Bank and the Cambodian People’s Party, and protesting in front of the provincial hall.

Ponhea Leu district resident Chear Sarin, 31, said villagers wanted to settle their land disputes, which dated back to 1990, and had called for the release of three villagers who were in prison after being convicted of destroying property.

“We will not go home today if the provincial governor does not come to talk with us and find the specific day to find a resolution for us,” she said.

Chear Sarin said that because it was the planting season, authorities had to find a resolution immediately, adding: “We would rather die in this provincial office than go home without a result.”

Adhoc provincial co-ordinator Men Makara said 35 villages in 11 communes of seven districts in the province were in dispute with private companies over land. The disputes involved 2,742 families and 1,157 hectares of land.

Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for Adhoc, said he supported villagers who protested peacefully.

“Villagers ask for intervention, but they have not once received intervention by the authorities – they always get arrest warrants,” he said.

Chhun Sirun, the provincial governor, could not be reached for comment.

Chan Sokhum, the governor of Takmao district, declined to comment.

Heng Theam, the governor of Kien Svay district, said the villagers who protested did not have the documents to confirm they were the owners of the land they sought, but he had tried to find a resolution for them.

“We have to find out the background of those villagers, because this has been happening since 1990,”  he said.

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