The cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday accepted a petition from villagers from Kratie province’s Snuol district who are requesting intervention in a land dispute with a plantation owner.
Kong Chamroeun, a secretary in the prime minister’s cabinet, met about 100 villagers at Phnom Penh’s Botum Park on Wednesday after they returned, after being turned away on Tuesday, to ask for assistance in the dispute with Horizon Agriculture Development.
“I accept the petition from all of you but I will keep it and wait for an opposition letter from the provincial land management,” he said in reference to a letter required by the cabinet from local authorities to show that the families had lodged a complaint at provincial level.
Suon Vicheka, a representative of the 329 families, said that he had sent three people to the provincial land management department to request the letter, and that he will return to Snuol and continue to protest if the provincial authorities refuse to issue one.
The families claim they began moving onto the disputed land in Snuol commune in 2002 before the Growest Trading Co. moved in and cleared 1,562 hectares of land in 2008. Horizon Agriculture Development then purchased the land in 2010 for cassava and pepper plantations.
Provincial land management director Kao Malilen said the land had been legally cleared for agricultural development prior to a provincial working group and student volunteer measuring the land for the villagers in 2012.
“I think the working group misunderstood the land measurement because they did not know the land belonged to the company,” he said.
Mr. Malilen added that villagers had until August 8 to file a complaint against the decision.
However, Uth Seanghay, 66, who claims she moved to the disputed land in 2002, said that past experiences made her skeptical of Kratie authorities’ willingness to find an acceptable solution for them.
“I have no hope that the provincial authorities will find a solution for us because we have protested three times but got no results,” she said.