Kratie Farmers Offered Land, But Many Remain Defiant

A group of villagers who were evicted from Kratie province to make way for a Vietnamese rubber company were given a 750-hectare social land concession by the government Thursday, but many said they would hold out for a better offer.

A letter signed by Kratie Governor Sar Chamrong allotted the land in Snuol district to 405 families who have been camping out in Phnom Penh for the past 10 days, living in a pagoda while protesting around the city demanding that the government return their land.

The municipality has repeatedly told them they must leave Phnom Penh and return home.

Mr. Chamrong’s offer Thursday was contingent on the villagers returning immediately to Snuol district to sign documents accepting the social land concession. But many of the farmers, the majority of whom are originally from Kompong Cham province and only moved to Kratie in 2008, said during a meeting with authorities at Samakki Raingsey pagoda Thursday that they would not go.

“We cannot take it because it’s not enough for us. We should get at least three hectares,” said farmer Lim Chandy.

He said the agreement would leave each family with just 1.85 hectares of land, while he had previously been farming five hectares in Snuol. Mr. Chandy said he left his home in Kompong Cham and migrated to Snuol after border posts were moved and he found his four-hectare farm suddenly lost across the border in Vietnam.

The farmers were evicted from the land they were farming in Snuol district’s Khsoem commune on May 2 to make way for Vietnamese rubber firm Binh Phuoc 2.

The opposition CNRP has spoken out repeatedly in support of the evicted villagers, with President Sam Rainsy referring to them as “internal refugees” and calling on the Cambodian Red Cross to house and feed them.

“I am not part of their land dispute, but I am a lawmaker and I cannot stand by when people have these problems,” said CNRP lawmaker-elect Real Camerin at the pagoda Thursday. “I have to help them.”

Srun Sreak, 22, maintained that the villagers would not leave without promises that they could return to their old land.

“We will stand up to the Phnom Penh officials if they attack,” he said.

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