Kompong Speu province villagers embroiled in a land dispute with Meng Keth company have begun farming the contested land despite a warning from the provincial court that it would enforce a 2009 Supreme Court verdict awarding the land to the company’s owner.
“We began farming the land over the weekend, because we don’t have any land elsewhere to plant rice,” said Sun Samnang, a member of one of the 88 families claiming to have farmed the 65 hectares of disputed land in Odong district’s Phnom Touch commune since the early ’80s.
A case was brought to court in 2004 by Taiwanese-owned Meng Keth, but villagers have continued to farm the land every year, she said.
“[If there are] any attempts to take our land for businesspeople, we are prepared to die for the protection of our farmland,” said Ms Samnang, a resident from neighboring Tuol Pich commune in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district.
“The land is ours, not that rich Taiwanese guy’s,” she said, referring to businessman Chang Kuo Sheng, who was naturalized as a Cambodian citizen in 2001.
Phnom Touch commune chief Yin Soeung confirmed that villagers from three separate communes in Kandal and Kompong Speu provinces had been farming the land without interruption from local authorities and Meng Keth, adding: “I have no idea how these villagers could make claims against other legal landlords.”
After the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the land belonged to RCAF’s Thmat Poang Military Cadet Training School. “The military soldiers legally sold the land to the company, but the villagers still aggressively claim it as theirs,” Mr Soeung said.
Two attempts to enforce the December 2009 Supreme Court verdict have ended in violent clashes between protesters, police and military police, but Judge Khlaut Pich, president of the provincial court, said the court would make a third attempt to enforce the verdict, although he declined to name a date.
Villagers Farm Disputed K Speu Land Despite Supreme Court Verdict