Kandal Residents Near New Airport Asked to Take Down Structures

3 min read
The Techo airport terminal and air control tower under construction in September 2021. (Ananth Baliga/VOD)

Kandal residents affected by the new airport development said they were told by company workers to dismantle small sheds they use to house animals, causing anxiety among people that their land could be cleared soon.

Residents in four communes of Kandal Stung district have been affected by the construction of a new international airport for Phnom Penh, which is being developed by the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corporation and owned by influential tycoon Pung Khiev Se.

Uong Sim, a resident of Kandork commune, told VOD on Tuesday she lived on her land for more than 20 years and built a house and small barn for livestock — like many families in the area — but was feeling increasingly concerned that the company would take her land. 

She said workers wearing uniforms from the airport developer came to their homes and warned residents to dismantle small structures around their homes they use for animals. Company officials had already placed an excavator in the commune in December, which Sim saw as a threat to residents. 

“We are very worried because we see them doing this, we are afraid they will come to dismantle [our houses] one day,” she said. “We have a mountain of concerns. Whenever we go to find [work], we only think about our homes, we are afraid they will be demolished. Some people work in a factory, so they close the door and lock it…while they are working, they have to think about their houses.”

Sok Bunthy, another Kandork commune resident, said airport staff had dismantled another resident’s barn in December, but neighbors protested and eventually stopped the workers from completely destroying the structure. 

“We are preparing to submit a request to the provincial governor to host an open public forum and ask him to answer our questions, so that we do not have doubts forever,” he said. 

Sim added that representatives for 460 families living around the new airport development had gathered at the Kandal provincial administration on December 27 to ask for land titles, but had received no response from the government.

Nou Peng Chandara, deputy provincial governor, said it was the village residents’ “feelings” that was making them worry about their homes. 

He also said that the villagers’ land was outside the airport development area but when asked why company workers were still asking village residents to remove the structures, he did not say anything and after a long, silent pause he disconnected the call.

A representative for OCIC listed in the Commerce Ministry’s directory said she did not know about the airport project. Lim Lina, another director listed for OCIC, claimed she spoke to reporters on Tuesday and hung up. 

The new “Techo Takhmao International Airport” is developed under a joint venture between the government’s aviation authority and OCIC. The company has said the 2,600-hectare airport and satellite city will be operational in 2025. 

Residents in the airport’s path say they haven’t been adequately compensated for their land or have lost their farmland. Protests have sparked violence and authorities arrested village residents for use of violence but a Kandal court recently acquitted protestors of charges of violence and incitement. 

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