Land Dispute Sparks Protest At Assembly

Some 65 farmers from Kom­pong Speu province protested in front of the National Assembly on Friday, accusing the provincial governor of authorizing an ob­scure NGO to grab 195 hect­ares of their farmland.

Kompong Speu Governor Ou Bun gave permission Aug 17 to a group called the Cambodia Com­munity Development Foun­da­tion to grow agro-industrial crops, including cashews and acacia, on 300 hectares of land in Thpong and Oral districts, ac­cord­ing to a copy of a letter signed and stamped by the governor.

But the protesters said Friday the land that the NGO has claimed, includes rice fields the farmers have been cultivating since 1997. “It is not right that they exploit us and grab our land in this way,” said Sok Chhom, 37, in front of the Assembly.

The protesters said they have no land titles. But according to the 2001 Land Law, the farmers have legal claim to the land if they have been occupying it since before the law was passed.

“We have already filed a complaint with local authorities, but they didn’t care,” Sok Chhom said.

Provincial Cabinet chief Pen Sabon said district authorities are investigating the case, but added that the farmers’ claim to the land is unclear. When asked why the NGO was allowed to begin work on the land before the dispute was resolved, he said, “I do not know how to answer because the governor himself signed the permission.”

Governor Ou Bun, however, denied knowledge of the case Friday.

“I’ve just arrived home from a meeting, so I do not know about this,” he said by telephone.

Representatives of CCDF could not be reached, as they are not listed and their organization’s stationary did not list an address or phone number.

In an Aug 6 letter, the organization’s provincial branch manager Mo Samon wrote that the NGO’s objective is “to promote the people’s living standard in accordance with the government’s policy to reduce poverty.”

 

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