Around 40 families in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district involved in a land dispute with Heng Huy Company faced off with company workers on Friday after they tried to bulldoze land claimed by villagers, human rights workers and villagers said yesterday.
Phao Nhev, a representative of around 40 families in Chi Khor Krom commune’s Prek Chik village, said villagers had stopped workers after they cleared an 11-by-100-meter stretch of farmland.
“On Friday, around 20 villagers tried to stop the bulldozer of Heng Huy Company, which was clearing Ms Chhun Ran’s land,” she said, adding that villagers had since continued to guard their land against workers’ attempts to clear it.
“The company representatives threatened us by saying they would keep bulldozing, so we gathered villagers to guard the farm,” she said, adding that Heng Huy Company had laid claim to the families’ combined 109 hectares of farmland.
However, businessman Heng Huy yesterday claimed his workers had not cleared village land and that villagers had in fact encroached on his 779-hectare sugarcane concession in the area.
“I did not bulldoze their land but they encroach on my land. I have a land title but they do not,” Mr Huy said, claiming he bought the land in 1993.
The human rights organization Licadho and the Committee Peace Network, a land rights organization, said the land dispute dated from 2007 when two development companies, Heng Huy Company and Sok Hong Company, both laid claim to all 400 hectares within Prek Chik village after local authorities supposedly sold it for development.
The 63 families in Prek Chik, who claimed to have farmed the land since 1979, were not consulted in the sale, according to the two organizations.
The Supreme Court last year finally awarded the land to Mr Huy. Seng Sokheng of CPN said nearly half the families had been forced to leave since 2007.
“Now only 34 families with 109 hectares [remain], as they do not agree to leave the land,” he said, speculating that these families were headed for a confrontation with Mr Huy’s workers.
Mr Huy claimed only 10 families still opposed his sugar concession. “If they still do not agree on compensation…then I will use legal action,” he warned.