Deputy PM Intervenes in Techo Airport Dispute

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The Techo airport terminal and air control tower under construction in September 2021. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)
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Deputy Prime Minister Men Sam An has issued a letter to the Kandal governor telling him to look into the situations of 121 families contesting the development of Phnom Penh’s new airport, settle their dispute, and report back.

The airport development has faced a lengthy and at-times violent dispute as it tries to build the new facility in part on locals’ farmland and residences. Some families are contesting the compensation amount on offer as land prices have risen in the area, and have spoken to VOD about unhappiness ahead of a local-level election next month.

In a letter dated Monday, Sam An wrote to Kandal governor Kong Sophorn telling him to settle compensation for 121 families in Kandal Stung district’s Boeng Khyang and Prek Sleng communes.

She was writing as the head of the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, to which the residents filed a petition in March saying 63 hectares were under dispute.

Sam An’s letter told Sophorn to review the situation and send a report to the ministry so that it can further report to the government.

Neither Sam An nor Sophorn could be reached on Tuesday. Kandal provincial administration spokesperson Kruy Malen said he had not seen the letter.

The state has offered families compensation of $8 per square meter to leave the airport development area, but residents say the offer is a mere fraction of land prices in the area. They say they would be unable to buy equivalent land with the compensation.

Toun Vannak, a residents’ representative in Boeng Khyang commune, said on Tuesday that the development was blocking families from farming and people were struggling to get by.

“We lack money for children to go to school,” Vannak said. Authorities were pressuring them to accept the compensation on offer, and some officials had told them the offer would be rescinded soon, he alleged.

“For us, the families affected in both land, houses and farmland, it is not acceptable,” Vannak said.

The airport would be Phnom Penh’s new international airport, and is being built in Kandal and Takeo provinces. The developer, the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, is run by highly connected tycoon Pung Kheav Se.

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