New Roads Latest Flashpoint in Senator’s K Speu Land Dispute

Acrimony between local villagers and an agro-industry firm owned by CPP Senator and businessman Ly Yong Phat continued on Thurs­day as the company cleared disputed land to build 100 dirt roads to traverse a future cane sugar plantation in Kompong Speu province’s Om­laing commune.

Commune chief Hap Dam said on Thursday that the 20 families whose land will be lost to the new roads are in discussions with representatives of Phnom Penh Sugar Company about receiving alternative land elsewhere.

“We are resolving the matter by offering those families a land swap,” Ms Dam said, admitting that the negotiations had been difficult so far.

“I have warned the villagers not to organize violent protests, otherwise they could face lawsuits from the firm. I promised to offer land swaps for any family whose farmland is lost due to the road construction,” she added.

Local resident Yuth Thou, 45, said the company is forcing families to give up their land to the plantation’s road developments, and threatening to have them jailed if they refuse to move. In total, ap­proximately 800 families in Om­laing commune will be forced to give up their land to Mr Yong Phat’s 8,343-hectare concession.

Phnom Penh Sugar Company rep­resentative Chheang Kim Sun de­nied intimidating the villagers to make way for the plantation.

“Some villagers are troublemakers,” Ms Kim Sun said, adding that some landowners had exaggerated the size of their landholdings in an effort to get greater compensation from her company.

Already, crews have cleared 3,000 hectares for the plantation, she said.

Rath Thavy, provincial investigator for rights group Adhoc, said the situation would likely boil over again, particularly when the rainy season starts and villagers head to their fields to plant rice.

“The situation will be worse in the future when there is water in the rice fields and the company still continues to stop villagers from farming,” he said.


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