$30 Million for Disputed Pursat Border Zone

A company owned by businessman Try Pheap is investing $30 million in a Pursat province development that will include a new Thai-Cambodia border crossing, the firm’s director said yesterday.

More than 300 local families protested the development in Veal Veng district’s Thma Da commune in October and early November, claiming it would affect land they have farmed since 1998. Officials have maintained that the land is state-owned.

Keo Chanthan, MDS Company’s director, said that earlier this year the government granted his company a 90-year lease on 2,250 hectares in the commune to build a special economic zone including hotels, a casino, markets, warehouses, apartments and a new border-crossing with Thailand’s Trat province.

“The trade among the two countries will definitely boost up, then more tourists, local and international visitors and investors will come here,” Mr Chanthan said.

A further 4,600 hectares, on a 70-year lease, were granted for a rubber plantation in neighboring Anlong Reap commune, he said.

Mr Chanthan said yesterday that Mr Pheap, who is listed as MDS Company’s general director, had already earmarked at least $30 million for the projects, and hoped to alleviate poverty among those living in the area.

“We are building local markets where Thai businesspeople will cross the border to our market in Cambodia,” he said.

The firm will prioritize building warehouses to store crops, followed by markets and then residential developments, Mr Chanthan said.

Locals who have protested the special economic zone, fearing it will encroach on their farmland, hope the development will offer them economic advantages, villager By Born said. He added that only land adjacent to their farmland had so far been cleared.

“We are concerned our farmland will be gone someday because the authorities from provincial to grassroots levels seem to ignore our concerns,” he said.

Mr Chanthan said that it was not MDS Company’s responsibility to resolve the land dispute.

Commune Chief Prom Ngun said yesterday that a provincial committee would resolve the matter with residents once it had finished looking into the possible overlap. However, he maintained that only land the state legally owned would be cleared.


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