Some 1,000 villagers on Tuesday blocked National Road 2 in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district, each demanding compensation of $250 from the provincial authority for communal land they claim a former commune chief sold to a well-connected developer without their knowledge in 2008.
Sun Khemara, the protesters’ representative, told The Post on Tuesday that the 245ha of communal land involved more than 8,000 villagers from Ampov Prey and Boeung Khyang communes. While some villagers from Ampov Prey have accepted compensation of $100 each, those from Boeung Khyang have demanded $250.
He said former Boeung Khyang commune chief Kong Nov sold the land to Heng Development, owned by prominent tycoon Sieng Chan Heng, in 2008.
The protesters also requested the removal of security forces deployed at the commune hall to deter them from protesting and asked the provincial authority to forward the case to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We are protesting because on December 20 the provincial authority tried to call our bluff, telling us to find another company that could offer each villager $250 for the 245ha communal land, compared to $100 offered by Heng Development."
“But when we managed to find one firm known as Borey Morodok, the authorities backtracked and insisted on the $100 offer. They asked the villagers to thumbprint an agreement so that a land title could be prepared for Heng Development,” he said.
Khemara said the villagers are still the rightful owners of the land and therefore can sell it to anyone as no land title has been issued to Heng Development.
Deputy provincial governor Kong Sophorn said the authority could not afford to pay more than $100 in compensation. He claimed on Tuesday that 3,000 of the 8,400 villagers have so far accepted the offer.
He added that the provincial authority is acting in accordance with the December 20 agreement with the villagers.
“Only a small number of people came to protest, claiming the company [Borey Morodok] offered them $250 each and promised to pay them on January 1. But until now, nothing has happened."
“The villagers should not have protested because there has been an agreement [between us] and if they decide to block a national road like that, it’s their business. As an authority, we’ll seek a peaceful solution,” he said.
Neither Heng Development nor Borey Morodok could be reached for comment on Tuesday.