Villagers Block Machines in Long-Running Land Dispute

About 60 villagers in Kompong Chhnang province’s Kompong Tralach district blocked two heavy tractors sent to clear a boundary Monday on disputed land they maintain was illegally grabbed by a company owned by the wife of Mines Minister Suy Sem.

KDC International, which is owned by businesswoman Chea Kheng, pulled back their excavator and bulldozer after Lor Peang villagers threatened to set fire to the machines, said Ta Ches commune police chief Chuop Chanthoeun.

“Fearing violent confrontation, I had asked the owner of the machinery to temporarily halt the clearance,” he said.

Reach Seima, a representative of the families locked in dispute over the 145-hectare swathe of land, said villagers formed a human blockade to prevent the excavation.

Mr. Seima denied that villagers threatened to burn down the property, saying they were just “ready to die for the protection [of the farmland.]”

Families have been fighting the company since 2007, but the courts have repeatedly dropped the case.

Thirty-five families accepted a compensation offer earlier this year, but some have since rejoined the 17 remaining families saying they accepted offers only under duress.

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