Representatives of roughly 700 families in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district have accused NK Ventures Cambodia of clearing their cassava farms without offering any compensation.
Indian-owned NK Ventures was granted a 1,200-hectare economic land concession early last year to develop a sugarcane plantation in Romeas Hek’s Ampil and Koki communes, but villagers said yesterday that the company had only recently started clearing their farmland.
Koki commune representative Kim Noy said villagers were collecting thumbprints to send to the government via rights group Adhoc, asking for immediate assistance.
“We request that the government gives us back just 20 percent of the land to grow our cassava crops. If the authority do not give it back to us, we will have no land to farm on,” Mr Noy said.
Fellow Koki commune villager Tonn Sarorn, 59, said NK Ventures workers last week cleared a 1.5-hectare cassava crop he planted in December.
“I paid a lot of money to plant cassava, but now I will lose it all,” he said.
But Koki commune chief Dom Sam Oun said 298 families in his commune had been planting cassava crops on state land that had now become part of NK Ventures’ concession, and that company officials had warned them in December not to grow any more crops.
Ampil commune chief Im Sary said more than 400 families in his commune had been growing cassava on state land for the past three years. “I am really worried for my villagers, but I do not know how to help them,” he said.
Ampil commune villager representative Ros Moa, 27, who has an 8-hectare cassava crop, denied the villagers’ land was state land. “I have occupied the land since 1979. It is not state land,” she said.
Deputy district governor Phen Sokhun claimed villagers in 2005 started planting cassava crops on the land in question and had promised at the time to give it back to authorities if requested. Still, he said authorities had asked the company to stop clearing the villager’s cassava crops until they had a chance to collect them.
NK Ventures officials could not be reached yesterday.