Kampot provincial authorities said yesterday they had ordered a private company to stop clearing land in Toek Chhou district, after about 400 families protested the arrival of the company’s bulldozers on what they claim is their land.
Sam Siv, a representative of three villages in Toek Chou’s Koh Touch commune, said that bulldozers belonging to the Camland company started clearing disputed property on Sunday and continued yesterday.
“The Camland company is bulldozing and destroying our fruit trees and violating our farmlands,” Mr Siv said, adding that the villagers had a 1991 land certificate proving their ownership of the land being bulldozed.
Mr Siv said the 400 families living in the three villages affected by Camland’s land clearing-Prek Chek, Kandal and Prek Ampil-had occupied the disputed farmland since 1980.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Camland holds a government-bestowed land concession to farm on some 16,400 hectares in Kampot province where an oil palm plantation will be established alongside livestock farming.
Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khun Huor said that he had asked the company to stop clearing the land so provincial authorities could find a way to solve the dispute with the villagers.
“The problem has occurred because there is a mistake between the border of the villagers’ farmlands and the company’s concession land,” Mr Khun Huor said. “Now we are…trying to find ways to solve the problem.”
Prak Totheara, a representative for Camland, disputed the villagers’ claims that the company had bulldozed on their farmland.
“In fact, those villagers protest against the company because they want to occupy the…land,” Mr Totheara said, adding that there were only 25 protesters at the work site and that the villagers had previously been made aware of the company’s land-clearing activities.
“We alerted the commune authorities and the villagers…to cooperate with our company and reveal their farmland territory about one month ago,” he said.
Toek Chhou district governor Se Dang said provincial authorities have planned a meeting for Wednesday to discuss the dispute.