Developer Ordered to Halt Work on Disputed Land

The governor of Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district Wednesday ordered the private firm heading a $3-billion real estate project on the peninsula to temporarily stop pumping sand onto land being contested by about 40 local families, but urged the families to reconsider the compensation on offer.

The families, however, rejected Governor Khlaing Huot’s offer and said they would be filing their complaint against the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC) with the municipal government.

“We will complain to City Hall and give them two options: One, cut our land out of the company’s land and allow us to live there peacefully or, two, give us compensation that is equal to the value of our land,” said Ya Leang Hak, 40, after emerging from a meeting with Mr. Huot and OCIC project manager Touch Samnang.

The governor hosted the meeting—at the Chroy Changva district office, which shares a compound with the ruling CPP’s district headquarters and has OCIC guards providing security—to try to find a solution for roughly 40 families refusing to cede their land to OCIC.

Many of the villagers have presented documents showing that they have occupied the land they live on since the fall of the Khmer Rouge more than three decades ago. If true, the families have a legal right to receive land titles.

After the meeting, Mr. Huot invited reporters and NGO representatives into his office. “I promise there will be no pumping of sand until the people have made settlement,” he said. “I promise there will be no violence used against the people.”

But a resolution was no closer Wednesday afternoon, as the governor and OCIC added nothing to the compensation offers that the villagers have already refused—space in an apartment block inside the OCIC-guarded compound.

“I cannot go and live in this building,” Sar Sam Ol said. “It is not sufficient for my family of six.”

The 51-year-old seaman, who serves in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces navy, said the land dispute was testing his loyalty.

“I have tried to help this country for 31 years,” he said. “If the sand comes out of that pipe again, I will not have any more energy to serve my nation.”

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