Protesting Families Burn Tires In Sokha Hotel Land Dispute

Two families claiming a plot of land that is slated for development behind the Sokha Hotel on the Chroy Changva peninsula in Phnom Penh burned tires in protest on Monday before being dispersed by a small team of military police and district security guards.

Builders arrived on Monday morning to complete a brick wall directly across the road from the families’ homes, but were prevented by the residents, who say they have lived in the same location since 1980. They said they had used the land across the road from their homes to grow vegetables until Sokha Hotels and Resorts kicked them off in 2011.

The dispute is due to come before the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.

“City Hall has called us to negotiate many times…. Finally they offered $100 per square meter. We demand $500 per square meter,” said Hing Khanchena, one of the protesters, adding that the total disputed area is 5,900 square meters.

“We will struggle until the end of our lives if the company keeps attempting to build the fence on our land,” Ms. Khanchena said.

Tom O’Sullivan of realestate.com.kh estimated that the land is worth at least $1,000 per square meter, or a minimum of $5.9 million.

According to the families, City Hall acknowledged their claim to the land in 1990, but sold it in 2011 to Sokha Hotels & Resorts, owned by tycoon Sok Kong, a deal they were informed of in July 2014.

Chroy Changva district governor Klaing Huot, who deployed security officials to break up the demonstration, said on Monday that the dispute was beyond his authority.

Mr. Kong said he was unaware of the dispute with the families and referred all questions to City Hall. Long Dimanche, the spokesman for City Hall, said that the case would now be up to the court.

“City Hall attempted to resolve it outside the court system by providing compensation to the families, but they rejected it and demanded market price, which is beyond our authority to settle,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Matt Blomberg)

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