Authorities in Kompong Speu province yesterday abandoned an attempt to measure land affected by a 100-square-km agricultural concession granted to CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat after villagers rejected plans to swap plots of less than half a hectare, officials and villagers said.
More than 10 officials from the provincial level, including deputy provincial governor Pen Sambou, went yesterday with a representative for Mr Yong Phat’s sugarcane plantation to measure land in a few places in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, according to CPP commune chief Hap Dam.
“Villagers grew angry and rejected the working group’s land measurement,” she said.
Villagers objected to a proposed swap for parcels of under 5,000 square meters, she said. They accepted plans to set the plantation’s boundary 30 meters from larger plots of farmland.
“Authorities cannot force villagers to accept our offer,” Ms Dam said. “Therefore it’s really important to sit down together again and find a resolution.” She said authorities will organize a meeting with villagers later this week.
Villager Men Pao said residents did not want new parcels of land.
“We just want to keep our rice paddy and farmland in the same location,” she said. “The new location designed for us is located far from water resources.”
Villager Bun Thuon expressed similar sentiments. “In particular, in that place the quality of the soil is quite bad,” he said of land offered for parcels under half a hectare.
Roth Thavy, an investigator for the human-rights group Adhoc, said authorities were increasing tensions by ignoring the demands of villagers. He said he was worried the dispute, in which villagers torched makeshift shelters last month, might turn violent again.
“We have seen that the authorities don’t have the will or purpose to resolve the matter in favor of the interests of villagers,” he said.
Mr Yong Phat was unavailable yesterday, but he has said his company will try to offer a fair deal to villagers whose farmland is affected by his concession.