About 100 villagers temporarily barricaded a road in Kompong Speu province’s Thpong district Saturday in an attempt to stop laborers working for CPP Senator and agribusiness magnate Ly Yong Phat from clearing lands claimed by villagers, officials and rights workers said yesterday.
Chhim Savuth, program coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said villagers blocked road 52 from 9 am until 3 pm on Saturday in order to prevent workers from accessing an area they had started clearing in the early morning.
“The villagers protested because the company pulled out their fence,” Mr Savuth said, adding the protesting villagers demanded that Mr Yong Phat’s company stop encroaching on residential land in Omlaing commune’s O’Pralov village.
The villagers barricaded the road with wooden beds, but the protest ended after district and commune officials met with them at about 3 pm and promised to take up the issue with the company, he said.
Villagers in Thpong district are embroiled in a long-running and at times violent land dispute with Mr Yong Phat, who with his wife has been granted 20,000 hectares in land concessions in the district. Villagers claim the concessions affect 3,000 hectares of their land.
Sar Sok, a representative of villagers in Omlaing commune, said Mr Yong Phat’s company, Phnom Penh Sugar, had attempted to bulldoze a piece of land that belonged to about 100 families in his commune, adding that villagers would continue to oppose what they see as company land encroachment.
“We will have another demonstration if the company comes again,” he said.
But Chheang Kim Sun, a representative of Phnom Penh Sugar Company, denied that the company had bulldozed residential land, saying it had only cleared empty company land.
“We have never encroached upon the villagers’ land and we’ve bulldozed vacant land,” Ms Kim Sun said.
Omlaing commune chief Hap Dam sided with the company and said workers had tried to clear an area the company had purchased through legal means, adding villagers were unnecessarily worried.