Villagers in Land Dispute With Phanimex Petition Authorities

Four hundred Kandal villagers locked in a land dispute in Ponhea Leu district with development company Phanimex submitted a petition Wednesday to district authorities and rights group Adhoc calling for a solution.

The petition came a day after villagers blocked National Road 5 for more than two hours after the company installed border posts onto what villagers say is still their land.

“In the petition, we are protesting against the [Phanimex] company for grabbing 63 hectares of farmland in Tuol Ampil and Ponhea Leu villages in Ponhea Leu commune,” said villager Ly Leang, 37.

“In the first petition, we appealed to the district authorities to cancel the land titles belonging to the company that is grabbing the land belonging to villagers from more than 180 families.”

Mr. Leang said the petition also called for authorities to measure the land of those without titles to safeguard them from unlawful encroachment.

Officials and Phanimex maintain that the company has had a land title since 1997, but villagers insist that the title was illegally obtained.

“The villagers requested authorities to cancel the land title of the company, but the company has had the land title since 1997. However, villagers are claiming that they never sold their land to the company,” said Ponhea Leu district governor Tong Simy.

“We have decided to let the villagers plant rice on the land, and are not allowing the company to go and measure or make any development on the land, as we are still waiting for a solution.”

“We will check why the company has the land titles, and will see if they are grabbing land belonging to the villagers or not.”

A Phanimex staffer who would identify himself only by his given name, La, said the villagers’ accusations are unfounded.

“The company did not grab that land. Their accusations are not true. The company bought that land from the people who lived in that area before 1997,” he said. “We have had the land title for more than 60 hectares in that area since 1997.”

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