January 26, 2018

Svay Rieng villagers protest

About 100 farmers representing more than 140 families in Svay Chrom district yesterday gathered in front of Svay Rieng provincial hall asking authorities to solve and provide compensation over a land dispute relating to the construction of a reservoir.

Meanwhile, four residents of Romeas Haek district have been summoned by the provincial court for clarification relating to a land dispute with NK Venture.

Yous Sophorn, a farmer representative of Chek Meas community in Svay Chrom district’s Chheu Teal commune, said that in 2009, the Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology took about 90 hectares of agricultural land from people in four villages in Chheu Teal and Svay Thom communes, in order to construct a reservoir.

She said the Agriculture Ministry promised compensation to people, but they had not received any settlement so far, which is why they gathered in front of the provincial hall, asking the authorities to speed up the resolution.

“We ask provincial authorities to handle it quickly, otherwise we will go to the Agriculture Ministry directly. In the past, the ministry promised to provide compensation, but we do not know in what amount. We want a fair settlement that will enable us to find other land for farming to support ourselves,” Ms Sophorn said.

Svay Rieng provincial administration director Ros Pharith said the team dealing with the land dispute would visit the site and ask the company to temporarily suspend work on the reservoir, waiting for the resolution of the dispute.

“We already informed the people that we would tell the company to suspend their building, waiting for the committee to resolve the issue before digging this irrigation system,” he said.

General Secretary of the Coalition of Cambodia Farmers Community Theng Savoeun, who is monitoring the case, urged provincial and national authorities to speed up a resolution.

After gathering at the provincial hall yesterday, the farmers also went to Svay Rieng Provincial Court to support the four citizen representatives of Romeas Haek district, who were summoned by the court for clarification in a case of attempting to grab state land.

The four were identified as Mom Sina, Toeung Veng, Kheav Saron, and Som Voeurn.

Ms Saron said that they did not grab state land as accused, and that they had occupied the land continuously, dating back to their grandparents, even though they did not have a land title.

In 2010, the government granted NK Venture special permission to build a sugar plantation on their land.

“The judge delayed the case to February 12, saying we brought too many people to support us in front of the court. But the citizens came to support us silently and there was nothing to affect the inquiry,” she said.

Investigating judge Heng Phalla could not be reached for comment.

According to the citizens’ representative, about 440 families from six villages in Romeas Haek district had a land dispute with NK Venture, affecting a total area of 670 hectares.

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