Villagers’ Crops Destroyed Over Land Dispute

Representatives of a community locked in a land dispute with a Vietnamese company in Kratie province returned home from Phnom Penh late Tuesday after failing to garner support from Prime Minister Hun Sen, while an official at the company said it had begun destroying villagers’ crops on the land.

Villagers petitioning Mr. Hun Sen at the capital’s Wat Botum park said prior to departing Tuesday that about 20 percent of the community’s crops in Snuol district’s Khyoem commune have now been ruined by the Vietnamese-owned Binh Phoeuk 2, a claim the company’s manager confirmed by phone.

“We sprayed the chemical substance to poison the grass [on Monday] because we plan to cultivate a rubber plantation,” said the manager, Min Tam.

Officials in Mr. Hun Sen’s cabinet sent the villagers back to Kratie to engage in talks with authorities after their second day of petitioning Tuesday.

Snuol district governor Kong Kimny said that he had ordered the crop destruction halted to “give them more time to harvest their crops” in light of the talks, but that he would otherwise not allow the villagers to return to the land.

Ouch Borin, a villager from Khyoem commune, said the company had cut off access to the disputed land Tuesday in order to prevent the villagers returning.

“I got up early and drove my motorbike to a market in Snuol district but after returning I saw one driver ordering an excavator to dig the road and two workers wearing the company’s uniform,” he said.

Kratie provincial deputy governor Kong Chamnan said the Binh Phoeuk 2 had repaired the road Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by George Wright)

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