Roughly 200 people representing 350 families in Doeum Mean commune’s O’Chrov village of Kandal province’s Takhmao town have requested that Prime Minister Hun Sen intervene in their dispute with a private company over their alleged encroachment on a 7ha lake used by the community.
The villagers held a protest on December 12 along Hun Sen Blvd near the lake, holding up banners asking the prime minister for help.
Oeun Sam Oun, one of the villagers’ representatives, said the families have grown water spinach, water mimosa and other crops on the 74,153sqm Chipho Lake since the 1970’s but now ING Holding Co Ltd has purchased the land nearby and put up fence posts that block access to the lake and affect the villager’s livelihoods.
“ING Holding encroached on the land on January 9, 2016. This company claimed that they had bought the land and banned people from catching fish in the lake or growing crops. They also began to secretly fill-in the lake at night.
“We do not know whether the company colluded with any officials, so we are requesting that Samdech Techo Hun Sen help the people in our community regain access to the lake so we can continue our livelihoods,” he said.
Sam Oun added that the lake was originally located in Kandal province, but was later transferred to the authority of the Phnom Penh Municipal Administration.
Municipal governor Khuong Sreng told The Post that if people are not satisfied with something, they should first go to their local authorities instead of trying to send their petitions straight to the head of the government.
“They must petition the district authorities. The district authorities will know what the situation is and if they can’t come to an agreement with the district, then [the municipal authorities] will possibly mediate to determine who is right or wrong, but one thing we won’t allow illegal demonstrations or strikes,” he said.
Kong Chamroeun, an offial from the prime minister’s cabinet, told The Post that in the past he had forwarded people’s complaints about land use or ownership to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction when they sought the prime minister’s intervention.
Neither ING Holding representative nor the land management ministry spokesperson could be reached for comment.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director for rights group Licadho, said on December 12 that the institutions responsible for sorting out these matters should proactively come forward and address this dispute now in order to avoid any escalation by the villagers or company that may lead to unfortunate incidents.
“If this case is not resolved and the dispute still continues, then development may stall while the people continue to make their demands and we fear that violence or arrests may then occur,” he said.