Led by opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, about 200 villagers marched 10 km from Neang Kok village, Mondol Seima district, to provincial offices in Koh Kong town Monday to protest an alleged land deal between provincial officials and Thai-owned factories.
Speaking by telephone from Koh Kong, Sam Rainsy said provincial officials are being unfair to the village’s 200 families by buying 336-hectares of land for only $0.25 per square meter.
Sam Rainsy said provincial officials turned around and sold or leased the land to Thai businessmen for a much higher price.
“The people protested [Monday] because they want to stay on their land. If evicted, they should get compensated at a reasonable price,” Sam Rainsy said.
He said the villagers would agree to sell the land for about $2.50 per square meter.
Koh Kong Governor Yuth Phouthang denied the allegation that provincial officials received money from Thai businessmen. He said the province wants money from the government to buy the land “to allow investors to build in an industrial zone.”
The governor said about $450,000 is needed to buy the entire parcel of land.
“We don’t have any money to buy people’s land because the state is poor. And we have not evicted people from the land.”
He said he met with the protesters and will work to solve the problem.
The price of about $0.25 per square meter is expensive—more expensive than land located near the newly built bridge in Kompong Cham town, Yuth Phouthang said.
Although he did not directly accuse Sam Rainsy, the governor said the situation is not as serious as “outsiders” are making it seem.
Sam Rainsy Party commune council member Chaing Sari said the villagers are not willing to leave their land, where they have lived and harvested fruit for years. He said provincial officials have threatened to evict the villagers.
The land dispute was raised in recent weeks by Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers at the National Assembly.