S’ville Residents Appeal to PM Over Airport Land

Nearly 70 Sihanoukville residents rallied Monday outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmau town residence to demand compensation they say the government promised them for land soon to be annexed by Kang Keng Airport.​​​

A 47-year-old villager who declined to be named said by telephone Monday that 343 families had lived by the airport in Prey Nop district since 1979 and were informed in 2006 that they would have to move.

Officials in March announced a $35-million expansion of the airport to add 4 km of runways.

The 47-year-old villager said that at three separate meetings, Council of Ministers Secretary of State Seng Lim Neou told villagers the government would provide compensation of $10 per square meter.

However at Monday’s meeting the secretary of state had informed villagers that if they accepted an offer of $1 per square meter, they could be paid within two weeks.

“We will not agree to this offer. It is very small compensation,” he said, adding that villagers would, however, accept a reduced offer of $5 per square meter.

Seng Lim Neou could not be reached for comment this week.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak said Monday that officials from the municipality and the Council of Ministers were to meet May 21 to discuss requests for compensation.

“We must work step by step,” he said, declining to comment further.

A spokesman for Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports, operator of Kang Keng Airport, referred questions to a committee in charge of acquiring land for the airport.

Seng Lim Neou heads the committee.

Chan Chamroeun, an investigator for human rights group Adhoc, said Monday that local officials had so far measured affected land in both Ream and Bit Traing communes surrounding the airport but had not yet come to a decision on compensation.

The price of rice paddy near the airport had recently risen to $20 per square meter, he said, making $1 per square meter insufficient.

“It was not an acceptable price,” he said.

            (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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