Koh Kong province villagers said yesterday that bulldozers for the Heng Huy Company had cleared 10 hectares of their Sre Ambel district land, leaving 34 families without any farmland.
But the company owner denied this, saying only three hectares of unfarmed land in Chi Khor Krom commune were cleared.
Yesterday’s bulldozing came after villagers faced off with company workers in the same area on Friday. But on that day they stopped the firm’s bulldozers.
Led yesterday by company owner Heng Huy, three bulldozers started rolling across the earth in the early morning, clearing 10 out of 109 hectares by the afternoon of the land claimed by villagers, said villager representative Phao Nhev.
“This morning, we tried to stop them but we cannot because they used the bulldozers and the authorities,” Ms Nhev said via telephone, adding that the firm owner was accompanied by 11 local police officers and nine company workers.
She said villagers planned to block National Road 48 today to protest the loss of their farmland. Villager Chhun Ran said that about four of her five hectares of farmland were cleared.
“They now bulldozed almost all my farmland,” she said.
But the owner of the Heng Huy Company said he and his workers only bulldozed a total of three hectares of unused land.
“There was no violence. The villagers just want to run into the bulldozers and we try to stop them,” he said, adding that local authorities were present to monitor the scene.
He said the bulldozed area was full of bush and grass–not villager’s crops–and that the clearing would continue.
Sre Ambel district police chief Mat Ty and Koh Kong provincial governor Bun Leut could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to human rights groups, the land dispute dates back to 2007, when local authorities supposedly sold 400 hectares of land to development companies including Heng Huy. More than 60 families said they were not consulted in the sale.