About 200 villagers in Kompong Speu province protested in front of the Oral district office on Monday to urge authorities to speed up their efforts to solve their yearslong land dispute with a sugarcane plantation owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat.
According to rights groups, the Phnom Penh Sugar Company has grabbed thousands of hectares of land from local families since 2010. In early August, the National Assembly’s human rights commission sent the provincial government a letter urging it to make sure the families get their land back.
Prom Sothy, one of Monday’s protesters who said he represented 421 families, said the villagers converged on the district office to demand that authorities make good on the commission’s request.
“We came to protest at the district office to ask authorities to speed up the resolution process,” he said. “The company has cleared our farmland, but it has not paid us compensation.”
District governor Muong Thy said none of the families who were protesting had legal land tenure. Instead, he claimed, the majority of them had been illegally occupying public forest land and were not entitled to compensation from Phnom Penh Sugar.
“Regarding this case, we settled with about 70 percent of the families about five or six years ago, and most of the rest of the families were occupying state forest land,” he said.
Mr. Thy said the families who were compensated had received either new land or cash. The rest, he said, would be getting nothing because they had illegally cleared state forest land.
Sin Satha, a representative for Phnom Penh Sugar, said he met with Mr. Yong Phat after meeting with the protesters in Oral and insisted that the company had legally purchased all its land..
“I met with my boss, and he said the land…was bought from private owners, and we will let the authorities resolve the case,” he said.