More than 300 families in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district yesterday attended a meeting to highlight the benefits of a 6,000-hectare land concession that villagers fear will lead to a loss of property, villagers and officials said. But villagers said that despite assurances that their land will be protected, they remained skeptical.
The government granted the agro-industrial concession to Cheat Development company on March 21 in Thma Puok and Oddar Meanchey’s Banteay Ampil district, according to a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. No contact information was available for the company yesterday.
Banteay Chhmar commune chief Vath Han said the Thma Puok district authorities and the company attempted to assure villagers that the concessions would bring jobs and money to the area.
“The district authorities also informed villagers clearly that the used farmland will never be touched,” he said, adding that the villagers had not been properly informed.
Protests in the case began May 12, when villagers successfully stopped the company from moving equipment onto the land into the concession zone.
“We had stopped the company and its workers from building living quarters because the farmland is affected by this concession,” he said.
A similar attempt to prevent movement failed Sunday after police escorted the equipment, said Vanna, a villager who declined to give her full name out of fear of retribution.
“This concession is 100 percent overlapping on our farmland,” she said, adding that villagers began using the farmland in 1993.
Lon Thida, another villager, said many villagers do not believe the claims that farmland will not be taken from them.
Many families use only 2 to 5 hectares for rice and cassava cultivation and cannot afford to lose it, she said.
“There is a small forest in the heart of my 3 hectares of my farmland. I am afraid the company will occupy my farmland surrounding the small spot of trees,” she said.