Farmers Seek Time To Harvest Before Move

Twenty-eight families in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district have asked authorities to suspend the start of a multi-million dollar satellite city so they can harvest their aquatic crops from a small lake earmarked for filling. 

The families acknowledge that, in 1995, ING Holding company paid villagers $1,000 per hectare in compensation for areas they farmed on Chak Angre Krom lake, which lies in the commune of the same name.

The government agreed in principal in 2006 to let ING develop the area, which includes the nearby Tumpun and Choeng Ek lakes, into a 2,572-hectare satellite city.

Following a Jan 31 company no­tice warning villagers that they must remove their crops within one week, officials came to re­move the vegetables from the lake Mon­day, said villager Thou Borin, 29.

Thou Borin claimed the company’s actions went against a pro­mise made to the villagers that they wouldn’t have to re­move their crops until development on the lake was taking place.

He said he isn’t asking for his area of the lake back, which he sold to ING for $2,000 in 1995, but only that the company delay removing his vegetables until he has had enough time to find another place to farm.

Lim Bun Suor, chairman of ING Holding, said his firm has waited as long as it could for the villagers to move their vegetables, but the company now needs the lake because development is going to start in the next couple of months.

There are plans to break ground on three new roads in the development area in April, he added.

“It takes at least one or two months to remove the vegetables,” villager Kim Heang, 29, said, ad­ding that the company needed to give villagers more than one week’s notice to remove their crops.

But Chak Angre Krom commune chief Chea Sokhai said that authorities had previously asked and been granted a delay on the part of the company last month so that crops could be saved.

Local authorities are not in a position to ask the company for another delay, Chea Sokhai said.

“It is the last time for villagers to grow vegetables on the lake they want to develop. I could not help any more,” he added.

Lim Bun Suor said that after the vegetables are removed, the lake will be filled in and construction will begin on Hun Sen Boulevard, which will go from Meanchey district to National Road 2 in Kandal province.

He added that the next phase of development will take 10 to 15 years to complete.

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