Tbong Khmum Land Disputes Draw Hundreds to Capital

About 300 farmers locked in a yearslong property dispute with a Chinese-owned cassava plantation in Tbong Khmum province traveled to Phnom Penh on Wednesday to petition the government for land titles following their latest confrontation with the firm.

Hou Sinet said his family was among about 500 that had been fighting with the firm over a total 440 hectares of farmland in Dambe district since 2001. He said they had been asking authorities for titles to the land for years and had come to Phnom Penh after the company prevented their latest attempt to plant crops in the area earlier this month.

Farmers from Tbong Khmum province protest outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Farmers from Tbong Khmum province protest outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

They handed over petitions at the Ministry of Land Management and the National Assembly.

“We asked the National Assembly to intervene…to provide us with land titles,” Mr. Sinet said.

A separate group of 200 farmers from Tbong Khmum also traveled to the Land Management Ministry on Wednesday to deliver a petition about their land dispute with the Cambodian-owned Memot Rubber plantation.

The government granted the company a 9,000-hectare concession in Memot district in 2008, but the families say it overlaps with a 29-hectare site they have been living on since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, for which they also want land titles.

Prum Danet, a representative of the families, said some of them had been renovating their homes a few months ago when company officials showed up and told them they needed permission from the firm to do so.

“We do not accept that the company owns the land because we have been living there since 1979,” she said.

Seng Lout, a spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management, came outside to accept the farmers’ petition and told the group that the agency would work with the provincial government to “find a suitable resolution together.”

CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, who heads the National Assembly’s human rights commission, did not meet with the farmers from Memot district on Wednesday but has visited them in Tbong Khmum in the past and said he would try to meet with land management officials to secure titles for them.

“We went to visit the site last year and saw the situation. The villagers have been living there and planting crops on the land for many years, so the government should give them the land titles,” he said.

Representatives of Memot Rubber could not be reached on Wednesday. In 2014, the company said that about 90 percent of the families it was feuding with had already accepted new homes provided by the firm.

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