B Meanchey Villagers Call for Halt to Floodplain Expansion

About 200 villagers from Ban­teay Meanchey province protested outside the provincial governor’s office on Tuesday seeking his intervention over the placement of government markers on their rice fields indicating where it is illegal for them to farm.

Lun Sambo, deputy village chief of Thma Dab village, said the protesters represented families from four villages in Mongkol Borei district’s Sambuor commune. He said the placement of floodplain border markers last year and this year by Tonle Sap Authority was preventing villagers from planting rice.

Prum Sam, a 79-year-old village representative from Thma Dab village, said 301 families from Sra Nal, Doun Loek, Thma Dab and Sambuor villages had been affected by the expansion of the floodplain area. The four villages have lost a total of 721 hectares of land. Thma Dab village, which once had 340 hectares, now has just 90 hectares, Mr Sam said.

“The rainy season is coming,” he said. “If we cannot plant rice this year, we will have no food to eat.”

Tonle Sap Authority secretary-general Chan Youttha said his organization had been given authorization from the commune chief and provincial governor. “We studied the land carefully before installing the posts,” Mr Youttha said. “If it is the villagers’ land, the commune chief did not agree.”

The Tonle Sap Authority plans to install more than 900 posts around the Tonle Sap lake in six provinces in order to protect 640,000 hectares of floodplain. All but 47 have been installed, Mr Youttha said.

Mongkol Borei district governor Y Long said the land was floodplain, and that “some of the land used to plant rice has been cleared in recent years.”

Ouk Keorattanak, provincial deputy director of administration, said he received the villagers’ request and would organize a meeting with provincial governor Oung Oeun, who was in Phnom Penh.

“If [the posts] overlapped with the villagers’ old rice fields, we would report to the government and Tonle Sap Authority to consider the issue,” Mr Keorattanak said.

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