Families in Land Dispute With Sugar Firm Reach $500 Deal

More than 300 families in Kompong Speu province this week signed a deal with Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company aimed at ending their long-running land dispute, though several of the families have yet to agree on compensation.

Ten representatives for the 364 families in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune signed the deal Monday.

Chheng Sopheap, one of the representatives, said on Wednesday that about 200 of the families with weak claims to the disputed land accepted $500 each as part of the deal and that the company would keep negotiating a price with the rest.

“I think the agreement is a big success because we never hoped that the company would provide compensation to all the families that lost their farmland,” he said.

Mr. Sopheap conceded that the families that took the $500 had no legal rights to the land they were claiming and had only staked out plots over the past decade or so.

“Those families accepted the compensation because most of them did not have documents to prove they owned the land and they never cultivated it,” he said. “Those families claimed the land illegally.”

He said the remaining 160 or so families, however, had been farming the area for a long time. Of those, he added, 130 were asking for up to $7,000 in compensation and would keep negotiating with the company, but the other 30 were demanding nothing short of their land back.

Hin Rath, 60, said her family had lost 3 hectares to Phnom Penh Sugar and would keep negotiating for a better price.

“I did not accept the $500,” she said. “If they pay me $3,000, I will agree.”

Sin Sotha, a spokesman for Phnom Penh Sugar, confirmed the deal but claimed that the families who had yet to accept compensation were only asking for up to $2,000.

He said the company would keep negotiating with the holdouts over a fair price but added that by law it had no ability to give anyone their land back.


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