Kratie Land Dispute Unsolved After Latest Talks

Representatives of villagers in Kratie province locked in a land dispute with an agribusiness firm said discussions with land management and provincial officials at the Snuol district hall ended Tuesday without a resolution.

Authorities reportedly collected documents and scheduled further talks for September 18, at which time, they assured villagers, they would decide who gets to keep their land.

“We asked authorities to quickly find a solution for the villagers and said they must give us the plot of land,” said Suon Vichheka, a representative of the 329 families living in Snuol commune.

About 100 members of the community protested outside the district hall because villagers and reporters were prevented from entering the building during the talks, although a few reporters were eventually permitted entry.

The villagers had a government promise of land titles scrapped     by provincial authorities after the Horizon Agricultural Development firm, which says it was granted an economic land concession in 2008 to grow cassava and pepper on the land, filed a complaint.

On August 18, a group of the villagers clashed with police in Phnom Penh while trying to de- liver a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house. That same morning, Mr. Hun Sen criticized Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim and Kratie governor Sar Chamrong in a speech for their failure to resolve the dispute.

Provincial land management director Kao Malilen said Tuesday the national cadastral committee had come to collect data on the case and that he would report to Mr. Chhun Lim in time for September’s meeting.

“Those villagers asked for a speedy solution, but this request is not acceptable because they are only one side,” Mr. Malilen said, adding that he hoped representatives of the company would attend the next meeting.

Mr. Vichheka said the villagers would accept nothing less than the return of the disputed land on September 18. “We will continue to protest if they judge in favor of the company,” he said.

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