Svay Rieng residents on Wednesday gathered again outside district and commune halls urging officials to turn their attention to their land loss of more than a decade.
Dozens of people from five villages in Romeas Hek district’s Ampil and Koki communes protested outside local administrative offices on Wednesday over a dispute with NK Venture, a Vietnam-based Indian sugarcane company which was granted a concession in 2010.
Chan Phorn, a resident of Ampil commune, said locals had no land to farm. Phorn also said nearly 20 community members were facing court action after they tried to stop developers from clearing land five years ago.
“People had a strong protest and chased out the machinery. Military police, police and soldiers threatened to shoot people for daring to protest,” Phorn said, adding that the legal action was still ongoing.
Khiev Saron, another Ampil resident, said about 440 families had lost approximately 670 hectares of land that was handed over to the sugarcane company, and they had petitioned all levels of government to try to get it back. Residents previously said at an April protest that they had been told NK Ventures was no longer operating, and the land had been transferred to other companies.
In particular, land titles for 51 hectares had been given to private individuals whose identities were not clearly known, Saron said on Wednesday.
“Now the people face challenges: No land for farming, migration to neighboring countries, in debt with banks, and we’ve asked the local authorities to make a clarification over our 51 hectares of land,” she said.
Chea Saron, who was Ampil commune chief until Tuesday, said his term had now expired. He referred questions to the new chief, Kong Sok, who could not be reached for comment. District governor Suos Mol also could not be reached.
According to the residents, officials told them on Wednesday that they would take up the case to the provincial level.
Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community director Theng Savoeun said he hoped that new commune councils would show initiative in solving long-running disputes.
“Don’t let the issue be prolonged anymore, because the people voted and gave confidence to the commune council to solve the issue for them, and I think that if there is real will, it will not be difficult to find a solution.”