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Friday, 29 April 2016

Hundreds protest Tbong Khmum land disputes in capital

People from Tbong Khmum province sit outside the National Assembly yesterday after protesting through Phnom Penh. Sreng Meng Srun

Hundreds protest Tbong Khmum land disputes in capital
Thu, 28 April 2016 ppp
Pech Sotheary

Several hundred protesters representing some 4,000 families from Tbong Khmum’s Memot and Dambe districts arrived in the capital yesterday to petition against powerful private interests they say are encroaching on their land.

The demonstrators submitted petitions to the National Assembly, the Ministry of Land Management, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet and the Anti-Corruption Unit. The disputes involve several different companies and local officials.

Khouth Srey Oun, who represents 524 Memot district families in a stand-off with the Memot Rubber Plantation Company, said inaction on the local government’s part had forced him to come to Phnom Penh.

“We have filed the petition to the provincial authority but they said that they are not capable of solving the problem, so we do not know who we can turn to,” said Srey Oun. The families he represents have lived on their 29 hectares since 1979, he added.

Phon Chheun, a villager from Dambe district, said that local authorities sold citizens’ land from under them to Chinese firm Harmony, which plans to clear the forests and farmland to exploit the natural resources.

“They sold hundreds of hectares of our land to the company, and that caused us to owe the banks a lot of money,” he said. “Please, Samdechs, help us.”

Yet another demonstrator said that the people he stood for were in a dispute with KVSB International, an Australian scrap exporter. Multiple Cambodian traders had inked the petition he brought.

None of the firms mentioned in the disputes could be reached for comment yesterday.

Ministry of Land Management spokesman Seng Lot told reporters yesterday that Minister Chea Sophara would convene a meeting to go over the disputes.

“The minister will lead a working group to examine this work . . . to find appropriate solutions for all,” he said.

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