With authorities in Kratie province beginning to hand out plots of land on a social concession to 301 families involved in a high-profile dispute resolved last week, villagers at the center of the dispute said Tuesday that opportunists are joining the queue.
Since Sunday, authorities have been registering families with claims to the 750-hectare concession in Snuol district but the villagers say that new faces have infiltrated their group and been registered, claiming that they too were left landless by the eviction.
“We are worried because we have seen many newcomers register to get the land that is supposed to be for the evicted families,” said Lim Chandy, 56, who along with the rest of the evictees, watched his home get burned to the ground by Binh Phuoc 2 company last month.
“We request that authorities temporarily cease the registration process so we can identify all the newcomers,” he said. He added that the waiting list for a plot on the concession has grown longer each day.
Representatives of the 301 families arrived in Phnom Penh early last month to protest their eviction. They spent almost two weeks living in Wat Samakki Raingsey before a deal was struck.
Kratie deputy provincial governor Khan Chamnan confirmed yesterday that the number of families asking for plots on the concession had grown from 301, and that 20 “new” families had been registered, but said they were part of the group at Wat Samakki Raingsey.
“We registered more than 20 newcomers because they also have their names in the list of 405 families,” Mr. Chamnan said, referring to the number authorities say were initially displaced.
During the stay in Phnom Penh, 104 families settled on a deal for land next to the concession held by Binh Phuoc 2, a Vietnamese rubber plantation company.
Mr. Chamnan said that he would compare a list taken by authorities at the time of the eviction with the list of registrants before signing off on the concession. He said that any families displaced by Binh Phuoc 2 that did not get part of the 750 hectares would be settled at a separate social land concession in Sambo district.
Snuol district governor Kong Kimny confirmed that newcomers were attempting to be included but claimed that the landless villagers themselves had brought them to Kratie province from Phnom Penh.
“We have only a small pot of rice for the [displaced] families,” Mr. Kimny said. “The fact that they brought people from Phnom Penh to the concession only means that they will get a smaller share.”