About 160 villagers from Kratie province’s Snuol district were blocked Friday from marching on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to call for intervention in their ongoing land dispute.
More than 20 Meanchey district security guards met the group at the gates of Samakki Raingsey pagoda, where they have been staying ahead of the planned march, blocking them from leaving the pagoda.
At about 8 a.m., an hour after the planned start, a local official came to the pagoda to collect a petition from the villagers.
“Where is law for them to march?” said Meanchey deputy district governor Heak Chan Leang.
“I received [the petition] because City Hall didn’t want those villagers to annoy the city.”
Mr. Leang said a response will be provided within two weeks.
Villagers began arriving at the pagoda several weeks ago, and have repeatedly sought government intervention in their land dispute.
The group claims that they have been farming the land since 2000, and are currently in a dispute with Horizon Agricultural Development over roughly 1,500 hectares of land, which the company wants to use for a cassava and pepper plantation.
According to villagers, the Kratie province land management department has offered 3 hectares of land to each family, an amount deemed insufficient.
“The land department in Kratie said they can give only three hectares to a family and will select it like a lottery. I have tried to farm for a living there for a long time, why do they offer only three hectares?” asked Din Saroeun, 39.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the municipality was urging villagers to return home and file the complaint with the national authority for land dispute resolution.
“Any petition from villagers to the prime minister for intervention, we will receive because in fact want them don’t do anything to affect the city,” he added.
In May, another group of villagers from the same district sought shelter at Wat Samakki Raingsey while holding protests against their own eviction. Eventually they were granted a 750-hectare social land concession.
Acting chief monk Tach Ha Sam Ang said the latest group was welcome to stay as long as necessary.