Airport Protesters Say 300 — Not 11 — Families Still Want Better Deal

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Villagers from Kandal province protest against the new Phnom Penh international airport development on June 10, 2021. (Hy Chhay/VOD)
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A representative for residents disputing land on the site of Phnom Penh’s future international airport says a provincial governor has vastly understated how many people are still holding out for a better deal.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn said on Facebook on Wednesday that 16 people had voluntarily accepted compensation for the 31 land plots they collectively held in Kandal Stung district’s Prek Sleng commune. 

The residents who accepted, from Prasat village, received titled land in another location in exchange, Sophorn said. He added in the post that there were only 11 families left protesting, and they could receive land if they backed down.

“The provincial administration and I on my own behalf once again would like to appeal to the people who are the owners of 11 plots of land located in the new airport location to come and join the deal from with the airport construction company and authorities, in accordance with the government’s policy, in the form of a land swap or sale to the company in order to push for an end and accelerate the construction of the airport as planned,” he said.

Suong Pov, a representative for Kandal Stung district families who are protesting the new Phnom Penh airport, said there were still 300 families who disagreed with the compensation on the table from the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation and its joint venture partner, the state’s aviation secretariat.

“If the company still refuses to resolve it, we will continue to protest,” he said. “When the bulldozers come to clear the land, the people will prevent them from taking any action on the land. In addition, we may hold a demonstration in the airport project. If the situation is getting worse, people may march along the national road too.”

Pov said the 16 disputants who accepted the government’s latest compensation had not voluntarily accepted but rather had grown weary of authorities’ threats.

The new Phnom Penh airport, the first runway of which was scheduled to be completed by 2023 according to the Kandal governor, occupies 2,600 hectares in Kandal and Takeo provinces. Kandal Stung residents who disputed the compensation offered by OCIC have blocked the road and cursed developers, and they say they’ve been met by threats. A journalist from Svay Rieng province says he was pressured for his coverage of the protests.

The residents in the dispute demand that the government officials, in particular the Finance Ministry, study the value of the claimants land, and that Pung Keav Se, the chairman of OCIC, negotiate directly with the people for their land, Pov added.

Vann Sophat, land program coordinator for Cambodia Center for Human Rights, said the project’s compensation offer of $8 per square meter was unacceptable, and the company and government should make a better offer.

“The authorities should find an appropriate solution for the affected people to receive a suitable price [for their land] in order for them to buy land outside or exchange land, which would be acceptable for them.”

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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