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Villagers block sugar firm

Villagers watch as machinery owned by a sugar firm is loaded onto a truck during a protest in Kampong Speu on Friday. Photo Supplied
Hundreds of villagers in Kampong Speu province have staged a sit-in to
prevent the clearance of land they say is being grabbed illegally by
tycoon and ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat.

About 300
villagers from Omlaing commune, in Thpong district, began their protest
on Friday, setting up a blockade in front of excavators from Ly Yong
Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company that they claim will bulldoze community
homes and farmland.

The villagers are part of a group of more
than 2,000 families that rights groups say will be displaced by Ly Yong
Phat’s 8,343-hectare land concession.

“The villagers decided to
stand in front of the bulldozers without regard for danger because the
authorities have yet to intervene and halt the company’s activities,”
village representative Phal Vannak said.

Police were on hand at
the site on Sunday along with company workers during the third day of
the protest, which villagers said would continue until their land was
no longer in danger.

“We will not let them clear the land
because we haven’t sold it to anyone,” said Chhuon Chhun, another
Omlaing resident. Company representatives have offered the villagers
replacement plots of land, but these plots have been grabbed from other
local residents, he added.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Kang
Heang said 90 percent of the villagers affected by the concession had
already received compensation. Those staging the protest, he said, have
been encouraged by human rights groups to grab the land illegally.

“We
will continue to clear the land because they are living illegally on
state land, and we will not compensate them,” Kang Heang said. “We will
do everything in accordance with the applicable law.”

Thpong
District Governor Tuon Song declined to comment on Sunday, saying he
was in a meeting related to the issue. Phnom Penh Sugar Company
representatives could not be reached for comment.

Ly Yong
Phat’s wife, Kim Heang, has been granted a 9,053-hectare land
concession for her Kampong Speu Sugar Company that adjoins his Phnom
Penh Sugar concession. This, villagers say, is in clear violation of
the Kingdom’s 2001 Land Law, which limits the size of concessions to
10,000 hectares.

Omlaing villagers have been locked in the
dispute with Phnom Penh Sugar since February, and more than a dozen
have been summoned for questioning by the Kampong Speu provincial court
in connection with the case.

In March, a group of villagers
torched a makeshift building belonging to the company to protest
against the alleged encroachment on their land.

Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News
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