After fighting to hold on to their farms for the past eight years, 128 families in Koh Kong province on Thursday struck an agreement with tycoon and ruling-party senator Ly Yong Phat to sell their land to make way for factories and a seaport.
Since 2007, 135 families have been feuding with the Koh Kong SEZ Co., a subsidiary of Mr. Yong Phat’s LYP Group, which has been developing roughly 2,000 hectares of land in Kiri Sakor district as part of the company’s agricultural and industrial expansion plans.
The families claim they have lived on and farmed the land since the late 1990s.
Mr. Yong Phat, who is overseeing several large development projects in the southwestern province, said by telephone Thursday that his company and the families were able to come to an agreement after rights groups Licadho and Adhoc agreed to help mediate the dispute.
“Our compromising and negotiations were successful,” he said, adding that he was still in talks with the remaining seven families.
In Kongchet, a provincial coordinator for Licadho who assisted in the negotiations, said the families were offered between $250 and $25,000 each as compensation for their plots of land.
“The remaining seven families with large areas of land have not agreed to accept compensation,” Mr. Kongchet said. “One of them demanded as much as $190,000. But it doesn’t mean they will be left behind, as negotiation between them and the company are still underway.”
Ream Rom, 25, said he agreed to terms after Mr. Yong Phat offered his family nearly $15,000 for their plot of farmland.
He added, however, that he and 106 other families were still locked in a land dispute with the Chinese-owned Union Development Group, which is building a $3.8-billion tourism development in the province on a tract of land that overlaps with their village.
“Recently, they came and demolished the villagers’ properties, and we’re seeking further help,” he said.