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Airport families seek PM’s help

28 Oct

By:Khouth Sophak Chakrya and Alice Cuddy,28 October 2014

Villagers from Por Sen Chey district who may lose their homes to the planned expansion of Phnom Penh International Airport Villagers from Por Sen Chey district who may lose their homes to the planned expansion of Phnom Penh International Airport protested yesterday, appealing to Prime Minister Hun Sen for help. Pha Lina

Villagers faced with losing their homes to the planned expansion of Phnom Penh International Airport and left in the dark about compensation sought help from Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday.

About 30 Por Sen Chey district villagers, representing hundreds of affected families, gathered near the National Assembly in the morning to file a petition with the premier, calling on him to demand that $2,500 per square metre be awarded to the evictees and that land certificates be given to those who are allowed to stay in their homes.

“We need proper compensation … so that we can use it to buy land and build houses that we can live in with dignity,” said 78-year-old Chhem Seng.

The group was prevented from reaching the doors of the National Assembly by police officials and Daun Penh district security guards, but after more than an hour, a cabinet official received the petition.

In April, houses near the airport began to be marked for demolition and partial destruction to make way for a “buffer zone”, which authorities say is needed to bring the site in line with international standards.

Private company Green Goal was tasked with conducting a census of the area to establish how much compensation should be awarded to those affected.

But villagers yesterday said they had been kept in the dark about its results.

“The company’s silence makes us very concerned about losing our land and houses as other communities have when companies have grabbed their land without awarding any compensation,” said community representative Chhray Nym.

Tem Sareivouth, general manager at Green Goal, told the Post yesterday that the company completed its census last month, but results could not yet be revealed to the villagers.

“We are now doing data entry, and we need to show the government the results first,” he said.

Sareivouth added that in addition to information on compensation, the company was compiling an impact assessment on the expansion.

“We need to have as little impact as possible,” he said.

Villagers Losing Land March to PM’s House

28 Oct

By Mech Dara and Neou Vannarin | October 28, 2014

A group of 30 protesters from a community next to Phnom Penh International Airport took to the streets near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house Monday seeking land titles and compensation for property they are set to lose in the airport’s expansion.

After being blocked by riot police from marching up to Mr. Hun Sen’s house, the protesters gathered near Wat Botum pagoda, where they prayed to local spirits and held up signs denouncing their evictions.

The protesters are part of a group of about 600 families who are being asked to either vacate or move their homes as part of the ongoing airport expansion, according to Chray Nim, a community representative.

Ms. Nim said the families she represents are seeking $2,500 in compensation for each square meter of land they lose. They are also seeking hard titles for the remainder of their land.

“We came here today to submit a petition to Samdech [Hun Sen] to let him know what our community wants,” she said.

Although the families’ dispute with Cambodia Airports is longstanding, Ms. Nim said the impetus for Monday’s protest was a speech Mr. Hun Sen gave in September during which he told families embroiled in land disputes that local officials would find a solution for them.

She said villagers were disappointed to have heard nothing since then.

Following Monday’s protest march, Kong Chamroeun, a secretary in the prime minister’s cabinet, met the group outside Wat Botum to receive their petition.

“I have received your request,” he said. “I will send these documents through the hierarchy, because I am just a receiver.”

But protesters Monday said they doubted that their petition would be delivered to the prime minister, citing a speech Mr. Hun Sen gave in August when he claimed that his underlings did not inform him of land disputes.

In front of the media, they began praying before a small shrine in a banyan tree near the pagoda.

“Please, God, who lives in this banyan tree, be our witness: We’ve come here today to deliver this petition to [Mr. Hun Sen],” one villager said.

“Don’t let him make an excuse, saying he does not know anything. Please, let this petition be delivered into his hands.”

Officials from the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation could not be reached for comment.

One million hectares reclassified, gov’t says

27 Oct

By: May Titthara,Phnom Penh Post, 27 October 2014

More than 1 million hectares of forest terrain and land leased by private companies has been put under government control since Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated a moratorium on new economic land concessions (ELCs) in May 2012, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has claimed.

The statement, signed on October 13 and obtained by the Post yesterday, also states that 3.6 million land titles have been issued since the May 2012 order began a process of land demarcation.

At least “370,000 hectares of land has been cut out of ELCs from 134 companies and more than 250,000 hectares of land has been cut from state-owned land and seized forest land,” the statement reads.

The figures provided in the statement were not given as exact and it did not explain how the ministry had reached the figure of 1 million hectares.

On May 7, 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a moratorium on the granting of new ELCs to private companies and ordered authorities around the country to carry out a nationwide land titling program.

In a recent report by the Ministry of Environment, it said that more than 50,000 hectares of land had been cut from 11 companies’ concessions.

But Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said that the land titling program had tended to ignore areas where communities were in disputes with ELC firms.

“They measured some disputed forest land, but people locked in land disputes with ELCs do not have their land measured, so they cannot seek a solution to the disputes,” he said.

Sar Sovann, spokesperson for the Ministry of Land Management, could not be reached.

Reach Seyma, a resident of Kampong Chhnang province who is locked in a land dispute with the KDC Company, dismissed the figures.

“What the Prime Minister’s volunteer students do is just a façade,” he said.

Rights group Licadho said in April that land grabbing had affected 500,000 people over the past 13 years.

Rosewood haul found in truck with Sokimex logo

27 Oct

By: Phak Seangly,Phnom Penh Post, 27 October 2014

Ten tonnes of protected rosewood found stashed in a tanker truck bearing the logo of petroleum giant Sokimex was seized by police in Oddar Meanchey province on Friday.

The driver and any passengers escaped, police said, in the second such incident involving a truck bearing the Sokimex logo since August.

Police yesterday said they were unsure whether the truck belonged to Sok Kong, the tycoon who owns Sokimex.

“The truck bore the Sokimex Petroleum Company’s logo and was loaded with rosewood,” said Yang Vang, an Anlong Veng district military police officer.

Koy Kanya, Oddar Meanchey provincial prosecutor, did not rule out the possibility that the truck was owned by Sokimex.

“We do not know whether it is Sokimex’s truck or not. But it has Sokimex branding,” he said.

In August, police found 14 tons of rosewood hidden in the tanker of another truck bearing the Sokimex logo. Police said yesterday’s haul was logged in Thailand to be smuggled through Cambodia.

In February 2013, the collection, storage and transportation of Siamese rosewood was banned under an executive order.

Evictees Sign Payout Deal They Can’t Read

27 Oct

By:Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter | October 27, 2014

Some of the families in a protracted land dispute with a pair of Thai-owned sugar plantations in Koh Kong province say they were pressured over the weekend into signing compensation deals with the firms they could not read, because they were written in Thai, and without their lawyers present.

Rights groups say more than 400 families have lost their homes or farms since the plantations—both majority owned by Thailand’s KSL—were set up in 2006 and been driven into debt, often having to pull their children out of school.

On Saturday, 18 of those families accepted $2,000 each from the plantations, then signed documents written in Thai that they say they did not understand and were not explained to them. Five of those families are among 200 involved in a class-action lawsuit filed in London against the U.K.- and U.S.-owned firms that bought sugar from the plantations for two years—Tate & Lyle Industries and T & L Sugar, respectively.

Chhun Kuong, who says he lost eight hectares to the plantations, was one of the 200 parties to the London lawsuit who took the cash Saturday.

Contacted Sunday, Mr. Kuong said he believed the $2,000 was only for the land he lost and that he had not given up his claim to compensation from the U.K. and U.S. firms…which bought the sugar that was grown on it. But he admitted that he had no idea what the documents he signed actually said.

“The company gave me an envelope with the money, then after I counted it, they gave me a document to sign,” he said Sunday. “I signed the document even though it was in Thai and I don’t know what it said.”

Mr. Kuong, a local police officer, said a superior put pressure on him to take the money and sign.

“I took the compensation because I work at the district police station and my boss pressured me to accept,” he said. “It is hard for me to explain, but you should understand what it’s like when you work for someone and you have a problem with them.”

Eth Kong, who says he lost 10 hectares, said he also took the cash and signed the Thai-language document the company placed in front of him without providing a translation or explanation of its contents.

“I took the cash yesterday from the company because my family is running out of money,” he said.

The families were not given copies of the deals they signed, either.

Thananot Tuaprakhon, a section manager for one of the plantations who attended Saturday’s payouts at the company’s office in Koh Kong, initially told a reporter Sunday that the documents were provided not only in Thai, but also in Khmer and English.

However, when told that the villagers who took the cash claimed otherwise, Mr. Thananot said he was no longer sure.

“I am not sure whether the documents were in Thai, English and Khmer because I was far away from the people who signed the documents,” he said.

Mr. Thananot refused to say what the documents said.

After the signing, more than 100 of the families who refused the plantations’ latest effort to settle the long-running dispute protested in front of their commune office to ask for the government’s help.

“The people protested to show that they don’t want the money; they want their land back so that they can farm,” said An Haya, a representative of the families and a party to the court case in London.

According to documents obtained Sunday, the U.K. law firm representing the 200 families, Leigh Day, had asked the plantations to postpone Saturday’s meeting with their clients after getting wind of their plans.

In a series of letters dated October 12, Thanakorn Burintarachart, the plantations’ general manager, invited the European Union (E.U.) and several rights groups to observe the payouts on Saturday.

On October 20, Leigh Day sent Mr. Thanakorn a letter asking him to hold off, so that the law firm and the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), a local NGO helping the families, could consult with and counsel their clients.

“Neither CLEC nor Leigh Day was informed of this meeting,” the law firm says in the letter. “It is important that our clients are given the opportunity to seek appropriate advice on any offer you make…. On this basis we consider that the meeting on 25th October should be postponed.”

But Mr. Thananot, the plantation section manager, said the meeting went ahead because KSL was eager to win back its U.K. buyer—most of the sugar from the plantations has since gone to other European countries, according to the E.U.’s latest trade figures—and hoped to settle with the rest of the families within three months.

On Saturday, the E.U., which sent an official to observe the payouts, said the families should have a chance to talk to their representatives and understand any deal they might make with the plantations before more cash is handed out.

“Any attempts to find a solution need to be done through a straightforward and transparent dialogue with the communities and their representatives,” the E.U.’s country office said in a statement.

“All affected communities need to be able to get a proper understanding of what is offered, consult their partners and make informed decisions. Only with their active involvement a permanent resolution to the situation that is satisfactory to all can be achieved.”

An Olympian endeavour

27 Oct

By:Hin Pisei,Phnom Penh Post,18 October 2014

A luxury twin-condo with 35 floors and 256 units is set to appear just to the southeast of the Olympic Stadium by the end of 2017. Sky Villa is a large project developed by the Crystal Orange Construction, with a hefty $100 million of capital investment behind it.

Lin Hsien Chih, the general manager of Crystal Orange Construction, told the Post that on entering the Cambodian market he was excited by the country’s economic growth, especially in the property sector. He decided to put his capital investment into this project, which aims to bring five-star quality residential accomodation to Cambodia.

“The Sky Villa is becoming the most luxurius residential project in Cambodia,” he said, adding that the involvement of architects CY Lee & Partners, the company who designed the stunning Taipei 101 building in Taiwan, would ensure the project’s success.

“After completion, the Sky Villa will emerge as the most luxurious residence in greater Phnom Penh because the project is located in a prime location, near O’Russey Market and Olympic Market, and next to the Olympic Stadium,” Chih said, adding that the project would also be a green initiative, with 300 plants to be planted as part of the construction.

The general manager spoke at the ground-breaking ceremony yesterday, and explained that the official launch had not happened yet despite the commencement of construction. It is scheduled for February of 2015.

An artist’s impression of the Sky Villa tower. Photo Supplied

Blueprints show that the Sky Villa will be 139 metres height, with 35 floors and four sub floors for vehicle parking. The project covers 6,000 metres of land and will feature a gym, a swimming pool and a big garden. It is priced at $2,500 to $3,300 per square metre and is to feature units of various sizes, beginning at 300 square metres.

Chailin Sear, CEO of CL Realty, said that the design of the project was perfect because of Crystal Orange Construction’s cooperation with a skilful architectural firm.

“With my more than 10 years of experience in the property sector, I think that Sky Villa is going to be successful soon despite the higher price,” he said.

In Sitha, vice-president of World Trust Estate, said the location of the Sky Villa was good, but pointed out that there is one negative – the land is on a 99-year lease. He also suggested that although the prices from $2,500 to $3,300 were reasonable, the size of units might be a problem for customers: “Each unit size is big, which costs a higher price,” he said.

For this project, Crystal Orange Construction cooperated with quality and standard companies such as CY Lee & Partners, Architects & Planners, LEE Design Incorporation, Chan Moon Architecture Lighting Design, AJI Property Management Group, and MCC Overseas Ltd/Shanghai Baoye Group.

More Than 3,000 Luxury Logs Found in Wildlife Sanctuary

22 Oct

By: Mech Dara,The Cambodia Dailly,22 October 2014

Police and environment officers in Mondolkiri province on Sunday confiscated more than 3,000 lengths of luxury-grade timber found inside a wildlife sanctuary but have yet to determine if it belongs to a Chinese company with a land concession in the area.

Provincial police and officers from Mondolkiri’s environment department descended on the cache of Thnong logs in Pech Chreada district’s Pou Chrei commune after receiving information from locals, according to district Governor Nguon Saran.

“We still do not know whether the wood belongs to the company or loggers and we need to do more investigating,” Mr. Saran said, declining to name the company.

Thnong can fetch up to $800 per square meter in the provinces and much more in China and Vietnam.

Chhit Sophal, director of the provincial environment department, confirmed that more than 3,000 pieces of timber had been confiscated but shared few details.

“I am only on my way to investigate now,” he said. “I need to get more details to see whether it is company or conservation land.”

Much of Pech Chreada district is part of the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary, a 22,250-hectare expanse bordered by Vietnam to the east and the Mondolkiri Protected Forest to the north.

Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the logs were found inside the sanctuary but outside of the company’s concession, based on what he was told by the villagers who found it.

“We still do not know who owns the wood, but the location that it was found [in] is bordered by an economic land concession held by a Chinese company,” he said.

More prep for Water Festival

22 Oct

By: Chhay Channyda,Phnom Penh Post, 22 October 2014

People walk along the newly paved promenade on the east bank of the Tonle Sap river yesterday. Authorities are suggesting that boaters look for accommodation in pagodas and schools during Water Festival. Pha Lina

Thousands of government forces will be deployed to help with crowd control at this year’s Water Festival, while boaters, who won’t be allowed to camp out in the usual area across the river from the Royal Palace, will be allotted their own places to sleep, according to new measures that were announced by officials.

Kheng Tito, spokesman for the National Military Police, said yesterday that 2,000 members of the military police will be on hand at the ceremony, which starts on November 5 and goes on for three days.

“They will be ready to cooperate with the national police forces to regulate public order and the traffic in the capital,” Tito explained, adding that 1,000 additional military police personnel will assist with first aid in case of an unexpected accident.

“We are preventing a repeat of the old incident from happening again,” he said, referring to a panicked stampede at the 2010 festival in which 353 were killed.

The festival has not been held since, with the government citing floods and the death of King Father Norodom Sihanouk as the reasons for the cancellations.

In years past, those who raced along the Tonle Sap during the festival stayed along the eastern bank of the river. But with the paving of the promenade, boaters have been told to stay in pagodas and schools this year, Long Dimanche, spokesman for City Hall, said last month.

While he didn’t specify the locations, Kem Gunawadh, director general of state-owned broadcaster TVK, said yesterday that there are 10 locations in pagodas, schools and in the Phnom Penh Port area reserved for boaters during the three-day festival.

He added that 1,000 foreign tourists are expected to attend and that the government will advertise the festival on CNN.

“There will also be live concerts by the Ministry of Culture and private companies at Wat Botum, Wat Phnom, across the river in Chroy Changvar and at Freedom Park,” Gunawadh said.

Illegal Loggers Complain to Police Over Wages

22 Oct

By: Saing Soenthrith,The Cambodia Daily, 22 October 2014


Phnom Penh protest planned over Kampong Speu sugar fight

21 Oct

By: Chhay Channyda,Phnom Penh Post,21 October 2014

Hundreds of villagers in Kampong Speu province, locked in a long-running dispute with a sugar company owned by the wife of powerful businessman and ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat, pledged yesterday to bring their protest to the capital if district authorities are unable to find a solution within two weeks.

The warning came as 200 people filed a petition yesterday with Oral District Hall, calling for intervention in their dispute with Kampong Speu Sugar Company, which led to their eviction in 2011.

Community representative Cheng Sopheap said authorities will be given 15 days to reply positively to the petition.

If not, he said, “we will come to Phnom Penh and protest”.

“They have moved us to a place where there is no water or farm land; it is not a proper compensation. We need our land back,” he said.

Oral District Governor Muong Thy could not be reached for comment yesterday


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