Preah Sihanouk Communities Protest Over Land Conflicts

About 100 villagers representing 19 communities in Preah Sihanouk province marched to the provincial hall in Sihanoukville on Tuesday, demanding intervention in their land disputes.

The protesters—hailing from Sihanoukville and the province’s Stung Hav and Prey Nop districts —gathered in the provincial capital’s Bei commune and marched 8 km to the provincial hall, where they protested for an hour before deputy governor Srun Sroan accepted their petition and organized a meeting with provincial officials.

Sun Sophat, a representative of the communities, estimated that more than 500 families and over 1,000 hectares are involved in the various land disputes with the government and private companies.

“We came to protest in front of provincial hall today because the land in our communities is being grabbed,” he said.

The protesters included those evicted from state-owned land near the Kbal Chhay waterfall in November, and villagers locked in a dispute with Chinese-owned Yijea Investment Group.

Mr. Sroan, who took part in the meeting with representatives of the communities, said provincial authorities “cannot respond to all the points that the people want” but were “processing to resolve their problems.”

Mr. Sroan said authorities would offer a 300-hectare social land concession to communities on state-owned land in Stung Hav district.

“We are still preparing the infrastructure in Stung Hav district… especially the road, electricity, clean water, school and hospital before moving more than 100 families from Spean Ches communities and more than 100 other families from Kbal Chhay,” he said.

On Monday, the protestors marched to the offices of the provincial land management department and delivered their petition demanding solutions.

Chin Sreng, deputy director of the land management department, said some of the disputes were “very complicated.”

“We cannot intervene in some cases because it is a long land dispute that is very complicated, while some [cases] are in the court’s hands,” he said.

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