Indigenous Families Block Land Grab in Kampong Speu

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An office for CHSN Transportation in Kampong Speu’s Oral district. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen)
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Indigenous Suoy families say they have blocked a company formerly chaired by the prime minister’s nephew Hun Chea from clearing their farmland in Kampong Speu, and are seeking compensation.

On September 5, CHSN Transportation brought two bulldozers and two excavators to residents’ farms in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune, said Traing village Thai Dim.

A few villagers protested, but were unable to stop the clearing that day, Dim said. The following day, around 20 families returned and were able to block the clearing after about 4 out of 6 hectares in the area had been cleared, he said.

The clearing affected the farmland of six Suoy families, who submitted a letter to the company through him for compensation on September 9, he said.

Three of the families want to sell the land to the company for at least $10,000 per hectare — or $1 per square meter — and the other three want to receive land elsewhere that would not be bulldozed by CHSN, Dim said.

The latest clearing happened outside land that the company had already bought, he said. “If they buy from the people according to the law, it’s fine, but this, they encroached first.”

A Suoy community representative in the village, Tuon Soeurn, said the company had arrived in the area around 2016 and bought up residents’ land. It had only started clearing the land around the end of 2020. Soeurn said he was not sure what the company planned to do with the land.

Numbers for CHSN Transportation and director Ly Sok Ngim listed with the Commerce Ministry did not connect. The company was formerly chaired by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nephew Hun Chea, according to company records. A local supervisor for CHSN refused to comment when reached by phone.

Tuon Chun, 66, said his daughter had lost 1 hectare to the recent clearing.

“I’m not happy,” Chun said. “Sometimes I see people with land issues in other places — whether in Kampong Speu province, in Oral district, in Trapaing Chor commune or in Traing village — I always feel very sorry for the people.”

He would try to meet the company on Sunday with the mediation of the village chief and provincial environment department.

Chun Sokun, 38, said her husband had heard the sound of clearing coming from her farmland and rushed out to try to stop it. She had not been actively using the land but had bamboo and other trees growing there, she said.

“When they come to clear it like this, I feel very sad,” Sokun said. “This seems like too much, to clear land that has a title.”

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