Rights Group Plans Forum at Kompong Speu Concession Site

The Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights said yesterday that it will hold a public forum in Kompong Speu province on Thursday over the long-running and sporadically violent land dispute in Thpong district between villagers and CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s sugar company.

Chhima Savuth, project coordinator for CCHR’s Community De­partment, said that early last week CCHR had invited affected villagers, company representatives, NGOs and parliamentarians to join the forum.

“Because this land dispute is still going on without a proper resolution to meet the villagers’ demand…this forum is really important for affected people to directly complain to parliamentarians,” Mr Savuth said, adding his organization is currently holding a two-day workshop to educate villagers on land rights and legal procedures concerning land concessions.

Omlaing commune chief Hap Dam said local authorities had not yet decided whether or not to allow the forum. She said however, that as land measurements were still being conducted to determine the total amount of land affected by the concession, “authorities are concerned the forum will cause trouble and make the villagers get angry, and it would be hard to negotiate a peaceful solution.”

Mr Yong Phat’s firm has been granted a 10,000-hectare land concession in Omlaing commune that is located next to where his wife has also been granted a 10,000-hectare concession. Local villagers say the concession will affect 3,000 hectares of their land and have ac­cused the firm of using soldiers to pre­vent them from farming their rice fields.

Mr Savuth said he had not yet received confirmation that company representatives or parliamentarians would join the forum.

“In previous experiences of organizing a public forum, CPP parliamentarians mostly miss the opportunity to take part and meet with affected villagers,” he said, adding CCHR was also still waiting on official permission from provincial and district authorities to hold the forum.

Chheang Kim Sun, representative of Mr Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company, said she did not know if the company would participate in the forum, adding, “I will not attend unless our firm is invited by authorities to join.”

 

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