Families from Kandal’s Ampov Prey commune protested outside the commune hall demanding that they receive compensation for communal land that is now being used by the new Phnom Penh international airport development.
Residents previously protested over the same land saying they had lost 83 hectares belonging to their solidarity group — a communal farming structure dating back to the 1980s — in a dispute with local tycoon Seang Chanheng’s Heng Corporation.
Villagers said the disputed land was then sold to the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation’s Phnom Penh airport project in Kandal, and around 200 residents, representing about 414 families, again protested on Monday, wanting the development company to compensate them for the lost land.
This year, at-times violent protests have erupted in the same Kandal Stung district’s Boeng Khyang commune as the airport development began bulldozing people’s farmland even as they rejected compensation offers.
Phok Phanny, a representative for the Ampov Prey residents, said they had been cut off from the land, could not cultivate it and had not received any compensation. He wanted the authorities and OCIC to prepare a compensation package, mentioning the $8 per square meter figure which has been rejected by other residents affected by the project in different communes.
“If there is no solution, they will continue to gather,” Phanny said. “They just ask for a solution according to the company’s policy, with only $8 [per square meter]. It will be finished, they will accept and will not oppose the development. They are not demanding a standard market price.”
Un Sorng, a Ampov Prey commune councilor, said more than 100 villagers had come and protested and crowded the commune hall area.
“They no longer have the land there since people had already sold that land a long time ago to Seang Chanheng,” Sorng said.
In 2019, Kandal Stung district governor Bou Nareth said the land belonged to the company, which purchased it from residents of the area, and there were multiple claims to the land.
Current district governor Ouch Savoeun told VOD on December 3 that there was no community land or land belonging to the solidarity group. He said that the land had been measured and distributed to the people privately since 1990, so the authorities would not work to provide compensation for them anymore.
Van Sophat, Cambodian Center for Human Rights land program coordinator, said authorities should clearly communicate with residents about the dispute and find a resolution if they didn’t want any more protests. If the group’s land was taken, then the authorities should find compensation for the residents, Sophat added.
The new airport development has been a flashpoint for protests across four communes of Kandal, where residents have complained of their farmland being taken by OCIC to construct the new airport. Tensions spilled over in September when more than 30 people were arrested for protesting the clearing of their land, with the clashes involving the pelting of stones and the use of water cannons and smoke grenades by law enforcement.