Villagers: PM Should Intervene in Land Dispute

Koh Kong province villagers involved in a two-year land dispute with a senior CPP official held a press conference Monday in Phnom Penh to ask once again for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s intervention.

In the dispute, which began in mid-2006, villagers and rights workers claim two companies—Koh Kong Plantation Inc and Koh Kong Sugar Inc—controlled by CPP tycoon Senator Ly Yong Phat have destroyed crops to make way for a 20,000-hectare sugar plantation on a government land concession.

More than 450 families living in three villages in Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Loeu commune have laid claim to 5,000 hectares of the land concession, said An Haiya, one of 10 representatives in Phnom Penh on Monday.

An Haiya said while Koh Kong Sugar Inc has paid about 200 families compensation of $25 to $42.50 for every hectare previously farm­ed, the families still feel short-changed.

“Some villagers got compensation, but they are not happy with it,” he said at the Community Legal Education Center, where the representatives made their statement. “We want our land back for farming.”

Ly Yong Phat could not be reached for comment Monday.

Interior Ministry Secretary of State Nuth Sa An, who visited Koh Kong province in March to meet with the families and negotiate a resolution, said the company is willing to provide each family with an alternative 2-hectare plot of land, but the families are each demanding 5 hectares.

“If they agree to 2 hectares, they might get it from the company,” he said. Nuth Sa An, however, also said Koh Kong Sugar is also at fault for evicting the villagers without negotiating first.

“The company is also wrong because at first it did not check correctly,” he said.

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