Officials Protect Private Company’s Machines

Chroy Changva district security guards Thursday stopped villagers from preventing a private company from pumping sand onto the wetlands behind their homes.

The Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation (OCIC) is building a $3-billion real estate project, known as “Chroy Changva City, City of the Future,” on the wetlands after receiving a 99-year lease from the government.

About 40 villagers, whose homes back onto the Tonle Sap and are becoming unstable because of the water rushing from the wetlands back into the river, were attempting to seize the company’s machinery when the guards intervened.

“We tried to stop the company from pumping the sand many times,” said Koek Dina, 45, who accused the company of deliberately trying to flood his property.

Maing Nimol, 25, whose house has been destabilized, said she is worried her land will be completely flooded soon.

“We have requested the commune and district authorities to help many times, but they never intervene,” said Ms. Nimol.

“They always protect the company whenever it grabs our land without ourpermission.”

Prek Liep commune police chief Miech Serei confirmed that district security guards were sent to the site of the pumping to ensure OCIC’s work continued uninterrupted.

“More than 10 district security guards went there,” Mr. Serei said. “Those security guards were ordered to protect the machinery.”

He added the area has seen “bad” disputes between OCIC and villagers and that the guards were also there to prevent violence.

“The company is always pumping sand, which affects the villagers’ land,” Mr. Serei said .

Nan Ony, a legal officer from the Housing Rights Task Force, said the situation in Prek Liep commune is dire.

“This is a serious violation of housing rights,” Mr. Ony. “The company is not thinking about how this will affect the residents in the area.”

Touch Samnang, project manager of OCIC, refused to discuss the situation.

“I cannot comment,” he said, hanging up the phone.

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