Angkor Sugar Land Dispute Leaves Sour Taste for Villagers

Villagers in Oddar Meanchey province’s Samraong city, who are tied up in a land dispute with local company Angkor Sugar, reported yesterday that police and military police have surrounded the village and blocked off access and that two men have been arrested.

A group of 60 police and military police officers surrounded the O’Bat Mon village in Konkriel commune yesterday preventing residents from leaving or entering the village, claimed village representative Huoy Chhuoy. Long Sarith, 45, and Long Chankiri, 37, were arrested on Monday when they tried to leave the village, he added.

“Police and military police tried to arrest me too on the rice paddy [Mon­day]. Now they have surr­oun­ded the village, and I have no idea why my villagers have been ar­rested,” said Mr Chhuoy, who is the former O’Bat Mon village chief.

Provincial police officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The land dispute between villagers and Angkor Sugar started in 2007 when the company was granted a 6,000-hectare concession. According to village representatives, about 214 families have lived on the land since 2003, while authorities say all but 21 of the families moved to the area after the concession had been granted, hoping for compensation from the company.

Earlier this year, villagers protested outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s compound in Takhmao asking the premier to help solve the dispute. The villagers are asking for 5 hectares of farmland and a 50-by-60 meter plot of land per family. In September the provincial authorities offered the villagers a 1-hectare plot of farmland and a 30-by-50 meter plot per family but the residents rejected the offer.

Commune council member Roth Som An confirmed that the two men had been arrested but said he had not been informed about the police blockade. Council officials are trying to help the villagers, he said, but so far it has been difficult to find a compromise.

“Government officials and prov­incial authority has a strong stance to help people, but the villagers’ dem­and for a big piece of farmland and residential houses is unacceptable,” he said.


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