Villagers Pushed to Accept Land Deal From KDC

Kompong Chhnang provincial authorities on Thursday urged villagers locked in a land dispute with KDC International to accept compensation from the development firm, promising to request that a social land concession be granted to them.

Dork Sothea, president of the provincial council, said provincial Governor Chhour Chandoeun chaired a meeting with five representatives of Lor Peang village— where 82 families are fighting for 182 hectares of land they say was illegally grabbed by KDC in 2002—but that no resolution was reached.

“The provincial authorities informed the villagers that we committed to resolving the issue with 16 families who have…[rejected] compensation,” Ms. Sothea said. “For the 43 families who recently protested against KDC, the provincial authorities would write to government leaders seeking approval for a social land concession.”

As the land purchase was a private deal, not an economic land concession, “it is impossible to cut out part of the [contested] land to give to villagers,” she said.

KDC is owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem.

Villager representative Reach Seima, who attended the meeting, said authorities were once again taking the company’s side.

“The governor…took [KDC’s] side by saying the company had hard titles, while villagers have no land documents,” he said.

Mr. Seima said the proposed social land concession would be located 40 km from Lor Peang, and that families were told they must withdraw their complaints against KDC to be considered for the plots.

Earlier this week, the National Assembly’s Human Rights Commission vowed to resolve the dispute within a week.

CNRP commission member Chea Poch said the body met on Thursday with Ms. Kheng, as well as representatives of rights groups Licadho and Adhoc.

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