The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction issued a statement on Monday rejecting the land dispute claims of 197 families in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district.
A ministry press release dated Monday said a related land dispute involving 987 families over sugar plantation concession land – used to produce sugar for export – had already been resolved.
“For the 197 families who came to protest at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on June 1, claiming they were involved in the land dispute, in fact, they are not involved and will not be given a resolution,” the statement read.
In Thou, 40, a representative of the 197 families who led them to protest in front of the ministry, said the decision was unjust.
She said villagers in the province had trusted Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara, but now they were very disappointed.
Thou claimed that the 197 families had occupied and farmed the land since 1993, producing crops such as mango, jackfruit, cashew nuts, corn, watermelon and banana.
She continued that in 2007, the Heng Huy Agriculture Group placed machinery on their land to clear it, destroying their crops in the process and also threatening to kill and imprison them.
“The ministry deciding this is really unjust for us. When we were protesting in front of the ministry, officials came to tell us to give them one week and when we returned home, they decided not to resolve it."
“Next week we will go back again to sleep at the ministry because we have no land [to sleep on],” Thou said.
The villager’s petition submitted to the ministry said that the families had been involved in a dispute with Heng Huy since 2007, with the land located in Chihor Loeu commune’s Tany, Chikhor and Chhouk villages, as well as Chikhor Krom commune’s Chambak village. Both are located in Sre Ambel district.
In the petition, the villagers requested that 421ha be removed from Heng Huy and returned to villagers. The villagers also demanded compensation of $7,000 per family.
Heng Huy Agriculture Group owner Heng Huy could not be reached for comment.