Families to Rejoin Protests Against Sugar Farms

Villagers in Koh Kong province left out of compensation deals that some of their neighbors are receiving for land lost to sugar plantations have gathered about 300 signatures on a petition demanding to be included in the payouts and hope to gather more before submitting it to lawmakers.

Hundreds of families in the province accuse a pair of Thai-owned sugarcane plantations, originally registered to CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, of stealing farms they say they have been cultivating for decades, and of razing homes. Two hundred of those families are suing U.K. sugar firm Tate & Lyle in London for having sourced from the plantations, a move that has won some of them payouts upward of $2,000 amid settlement negotiations.

Now, some of the families who say they agreed to stop protesting against the plantations years ago in return for promises of compensation that never materialized are once again asking for their share.

Nget Sim said Monday that his family was among those who lost their farms to the plantations but agreed to stop agitating in 2007 when Chhay Vuth, the chief of Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Loeu commune, promised to secure them compensation from the plantations in return.

Mr. Sim said the money was never handed over. And when they heard that other families who never stopped campaigning for recompense were getting paid, he and others decided to join the protest.

“The reason we are standing up to protest again is because we have been waiting for a long time for a solution and we were cheated by authorities,” he said. “We have collected about 300 thumbprints from families and we will submit them to the human rights commission of the National Assembly.”

Mr. Sim said the group wanted to collect more thumbprints before submitting the petition but hoped to do so by the end of this month.

Mr. Vuth, the commune chief, claimed that the families were being incited to resume protesting by some person or group. He refused to say whom he suspected.

“This is a political issue,” he said. “I never promised to compensate those villagers because it is beyond my authority.”

The plantations claim that most of the families that deserve compensation have already been paid.

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