Kandal Airport Protesters Continue to Raise Grievances

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Residents affected by an airport development project in Kandal petitioned the government in Phnom Penh on February 4, 2022. (Hy Chhay/VOD)
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The development of Phnom Penh’s new international airport in Kandal province continues to face resistance, as petitioners gathered outside government institutions in the capital saying they had lost faith in provincial authorities as machines began to dig around their homes.

Around 30 people, who say they represent 84 families in Kandal Stung district’s Boeng Khyang and Prek Sleng communes, gathered in front of the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Justice Ministry on Friday morning to submit petitions.

El Oeun, 41, said through tears that her family’s farmland had been destroyed.

“The airport developer has already cleared my land. I farmed on that land every year. Now I have nothing to raise my children with. My husband only works in the rice fields and has no other business. We are illiterate. I have been clearing those fields for my livelihood for many years, but now they have all been cleared. I have nothing for rice farming anymore.”

Prek Sleng resident Eang Sary said the development was now using heavy machinery to dig around affected houses despite stalled negotiations over compensation.

The families have been at a stalemate with authorities, who are offering $8 per square meter for compensation. The families want compensation more in line with market values, around 10 times higher, so they can buy land nearby, they have said.

Sary said the affected families want national authorities to intervene as they had lost faith in provincial authorities.

“We want Lok Chumteav Men Sam An to intervene with the relevant ministries to speed up the implementation of appropriate compensation, because if they dig up the land for development this month, we cannot go in and out of our houses. That will make it really difficult for people,” she said, referring to the deputy prime minister who is also in charge of the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations.

Boeng Khyang resident Toun Vannak said families in his commune were struggling.

“The hardships of my family and the people in my commune are deteriorating. First, we have no money for our children to study, and also, we have not been able to farm rice. We can’t make money. So it makes our lives even poorer.”

On Friday, officials from both ministries allowed the community representatives to submit their petition.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin could not be reached for comment.

In the petition, the families said the airport development, led by tycoon Pung Khiev Se’s Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, should compensate them fairly.

Repeated protests against the development flared into violence last year. The project spans 2,600 hectares and includes a satellite city. The airport is scheduled to open next year.

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