About 200 villagers blocked National Road 5 in Kandal province’s Ponhea Leu district for about two hours Tuesday, lighting fires with wood and tires and causing a large traffic jam as they called for authorities to intervene in their ongoing land dispute with the Phanimex company.
“I don’t want to block the road and cause a traffic jam, but there is no solution. If our land was grabbed, what can we do?” said Pov Sem, 54, a disabled veteran who says the company placed border markers on her land. “We know the experience of the Borei Keila community when it comes to Phanimex.”
According to villagers, company staff Tuesday morning placed four border posts encompassing a total of 63 hectares in two villages in Ponhea Leu commune.
“The commune authorities have confirmed that I am the owner of the land. [But] the company called us to the district office Tuesday to discuss the land and said that they would put border markers even without permission from the villagers,” said Ms. Sem.
Many of those living on the disputed land have occupied it since the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979, villagers said .
District governor Tong Simy said officials were working hard to broker an end to the dispute.
“We are the arbitrators, and we will solve [the problems] of both sides. If there is a problem with the company that bought or sold [the land], the company must show their documents,” he said.
Some 50 police and military police were sent to the roadblock and spent nearly an hour negotiating with protesters, said Seng Srang, deputy district police chief.
“The reason so many police went to manage the traffic was because we are worried about the sick people in ambulances as well as traveling passengers, especially foreigners, because it is an economic road.” Phanimex could not be reached for comment.