The clearing of nearly 2,400 hectares in Bokor National Park will continue as planned but farmers affected by the development will be compensated for their losses, a government official told villagers Wednesday.
Khvan Chheang, deputy governor for Prey Nop district in Preah Sihanouk province, spoke to roughly 300 villagers at a public forum in Toek Thla commune and said the government would reimburse those farming the 500 hectares affected by the agribusiness project intended for the wooded area.
“We will resolve the matter for affected villagers based on a compensation policy or other legal terms if those people have proper documents to prove their ownership,” he said Wednesday. However, Khvan Chheang stressed the project would be impossible to halt despite calls to do so from human rights workers and villagers.
Last year, the Environment Ministry and then-Sihanoukville municipality granted a company called Y Seng Co Ltd a 99-year lease to the land to develop cassava and palm oil plantations and livestock farms within the 140,000-hectare park, which spans Preah Sihanouk, Kampot and Koh Kong provinces.
Villagers have yet to meet with Y Seng officials, but Hiek Hymoly, another deputy governor for Prey Nop district, said company representatives would be invited to talk with the farmers as soon as villagers filed a formal grievance.
“So far, I’ve just heard the reaction from affected villagers, but I have not yet received any formal complaints from them,” she said. “When we get the complaint filed by the villagers, we will ask the company representative to discuss the affected farmland being claimed by my people.”
Families with farmland inside the concession have protested against the loss of their land and the Cambodia Center for Human Rights organized Wednesday’s forum to give villagers a chance to voice their concerns directly to the government, CCHR investigator Chhim Savuth said.
He said the project should not be allowed within Bokor Park because it would damage both the natural environment and the villagers’ way-of-life.
“The national park should stay away from any development that can harm wild animals as well as national resources,” he said.