A long-running land dispute between 175 Koh Kong farmers and two sugarcane firms accused of stealing their land came a step closer to conclusion on Thursday after 73 of the farming families accepted compensation, a government official said.
On Tuesday, the farmers’ representatives met with Land Management Ministry officials at the ministry’s Phnom Penh headquarters and were offered 3 hectares of land for each family plus $2,500 in cash, said Tep Thorn, an undersecretary of state at the ministry who took part in the negotiations.
“There are 73 out of 175 families who accepted the plots of land that were shown to them,” Mr. Thorn said on Thursday.
Phav Nhoeung, a representative of the villagers and one of those seeking compensation, said the remaining 102 families had rejected the offer because the land was too far from their homes.
“We reject this option because we are living far away from that area…. It is more than 10 km from our houses,” Ms. Nhoeung said.
Mr. Thorn said that future negotiations would aim to assuage their concerns.
“For the other 102 families, we will be working hard to find land that is not far away from their residences,” he said.
About 100 of the farmers have been living in the capital’s Samakki Raingsey pagoda since arriving from Koh Kong province in December to petition the government for help in reclaiming land they say was stolen by two sugarcane plantations previously owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, but which have since been purchased by a Thai firm.
Another 15 protesters, also living at the pagoda, are in a separate dispute with a plantation owned by Heng Huy Agriculture inside Koh Kong’s Dong Peng Multiple Use
Area, a protected reserve managed by the Environment Ministry.
Min An, a 55-year-old farmer who accepted the compensation offer, said that although he was happy with the land offered to him, he felt compelled to accept it as no better offers would likely be forthcoming.
“I accepted because that plot of land is close to my house,” he said.
“I don’t think $2,500 for compensation is enough for my family, but I think we have no better choice.”