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Protesters threaten road blockage

Photo Supplied

Villagers
gather outside Pursat provincial court last month to protest against a
case related to their ongoing dispute with the Pheapimex Group.

Residents in Pursat province’s Krakor district say they will resort to
drastic measures if a meeting with government officials scheduled for
Wednesday fails to resolve an ongoing land dispute with a powerful
local conglomerate.

The residents, from Ansak Chambar commune,
are locked in a dispute with Pheapimex Group, which has started
clearing rice paddies and farmland for acacia and cassava plantations.

Local
representatives are set to attend a meeting Wednesday with government
officials to find a solution to the dispute, which has resulted in the
gradual bulldozing of the disputed land since 2008.

“Tomorrow,
20 village representatives will meet with CPP officials. If the problem
is not solved, we will use our own methods to find a solution,” local
representative Sok Chamroeun said Tuesday.

He added that recent protests had drawn the attention of local authorities, who had deployed police to keep a watch over them.

Ny
Norn, a villager whose land is affected by the clearing, said Tuesday
that if no solution is found during today’s meeting, villagers plan to
stage a sit-in on National Road 5, blocking the busy highway with their
cows, buffalo carts and beds. He said the protest would last for two
weeks unless the authorities take action to resolve their stand-off
with the firm.

“If [we] do not use these methods, [our] farmland
and rice paddies will be lost … authorities have always lied from day
to day,” he said.

The 315,028-hectare Pheapimex land
concession, which spans Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces, was first
granted to the company in January 2000.

The firm, owned by
Choeung Sopheap, the wife of Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng
Khin, has faced criticism because its concession far exceeds the legal
limit of 10,000 hectares.

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