Land Disputes: Protests in Angkor, Petitions in Phnom Penh

3 min read
A woman protesting the road expansion in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district holds an address marker while speaking to a reporter on November 1, 2022. (Hean Rangsy/VOD)
[responsivevoice_button voice="US English Female"]

Hundreds of residents in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh protested this week over displacement due to an Angkor resettlement plan, the sand-filling of Boeng Tamok lake, and a road expansion project in the capital’s Russei Keo.

Around 200 Siem Reap residents who lost farmland to an area being used to resettle Angkor evictees gathered twice this week, while more than 100 Phnom Penh residents involved in disputes over Boeng Tamok lake and a road expansion demanded intervention.

Angkor Resettlement

The Siem Reap residents say they gave up 160 hectares of farmland in Run Ta Ek commune to the state more than a decade ago, and are now upset after seeing it is being given to people being moved out of Angkor Archaeological Park.

“This is an injustice that the Apsara Authority took our rice fields that we had been working on since our ancestors, but turned it into plots for people illegally living around Angkor park,” said Som Mom.

Mom was among about 200 protesters who gathered outside the Prasat Bakong district administration office on Thursday demanding compensation.

That protest came after around 100 residents gathered in their village on Tuesday for a promised meeting with the district governor.

“I’m disappointed. We’ve been waiting for him since early morning [after he said] that he would come to cooperate with each other,” said resident Ran Ra at the time, adding that the village chief had told them about the meeting.

Prasat Bakong district governor So Platon, however, denied there was an appointment, and said the residents must quiet down first.

Road Expansion

About 100 people met with Phnom Penh City Hall on Tuesday over a 3-year-old land dispute in Russei Keo district that would see them moved out of their homes for a road expansion.

Resident Long Pouch said powerful people in the area had received land titles, but ordinary residents in Svay Pak commune were being denied titles and told to resettle in relocation sites to make way for a 30-meter road expansion.

“People have been living there for 30 years without being provided land titles, but when a borey just came around two years ago they received the land title. This is really an injustice for us,” Pouch said.

Around 200 families in the area were being displaced for the plans, which were announced in 2019, she said.

Phnom Penh deputy governor Keut Chhe said he was busy and could not comment, while Russei Keo district governor Chea Pisey could not be reached.

Lake Loss

About 30 people protesting their evictions from Phnom Penh’s Boeng Tamok lake filed a petition with the U.S. Embassy on Thursday seeking help.

The major lake, in the north of the capital, is being rapidly filled with sand for development projects.

Parcels of the lake have been privatized for politicians’ family members, military officials and tycoons, but lakeside residents are being told to relocate.

Thursday’s petition said around 250 families had been living in an area on the lake’s northeast side for decades, but had never received land titles from local authorities.

In 2020, district authorities had told them they were illegally living there, and had since taken seven residents to court for resisting, the petition said.

Protester Prak Sophea said the residents had already submitted petitions to the Land Ministry, National Assembly, Prime Minister’s Cabinet and other institutions.

“We have no belief in the district and city authorities. So we decided to petition the U.S. Embassy for intervention for our community,” Sophea said.

Chhe, the deputy Phnom Penh governor, previously told VOD that authorities would not allow residents to continue to live in their lakeside shacks as the road next to them would be expanded to 50 meters. Residents could receive 4 by 18 meter plots elsewhere, he has said.

VOD. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission. VOD is not responsible for any infringement in all forms. The perpetrator may be subject to legal action under Cambodian laws and related laws.