Protesters Ask Hun Sen To Settle Land Dispute

More than 50 people from Od­dar Meanchey province pro­tested in front of Prime Mini­s­ter Hun Sen’s Takhmau town home Mon­day, the latest attempt by villagers to get the premier’s attention in resolving their land disputes.

The villagers from Samraong district’s Konkriel commune are embroiled in a dispute with Thailand’s Angkor Sugar Com­pany and are demanding fair compensation to move from their land, which they say they have been living and farming on for years.

“Without resolution from Sam­dech Hun Sen, my people will not return back to the province be­cause nobody in our province is working to find a solution in favor of poor people,” said Vy Sarin, 47, one of the villagers’ representatives.

Hun Sen Deputy Cabinet Chief Pal Chandara confirmed the cabinet had received a complaint from the villagers.

“But this case is not within our powers, which is why my working group has forwarded this complaint to the National Aut­hority for the Resolution of Land Disputes to find a solution,” he said, adding he also advised the protesters to go home.

NARLD president Bin Chhin and member Nuth Sa An could not be reached for comment Monday.

Angkor Sugar received 6,000 hectares of land from the government to establish a sugar plantation in early 2007 and they intend to build an ethanol plant, said Oddar Meanchey Governor Pich Sokhin. More than 4,000 hectares have already been planted, he added.

More than 200 families agreed to be compensated with plots of 50-by-100 or 40-by-100 meters and $300 to $1,000 per family, but then other people moved on to the land, he said.

“When the company started its activities planting the sugar trees, small cottages were built on purpose by some local villages and other people from other pro­vinces…in order to cause trouble with the company,” he said. “Those people just want money.”

But Vy Sarin said half of the company’s concession is land the villagers have occupied since 2002 and 2003. Villagers want new plots large enough for living and farming, he added.

Villagers were staying Monday night on the sidewalk outside the Preak Samrong pagoda in Takh­mau, Vy Sarin said. Aut­horities repeatedly tried to kick the villagers out of Takhmau town and pressured monks not to let them stay in the pagoda, Licadho investigator Nouth Bopinnaroth said.

Kandal provincial police chief Iv Chamroeun could not be reached for comment on Mon­day and contact information for Angkor Sugar Company was not available.


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