Villagers occupy land in stand-off

Source: Khmer Times

Police yesterday confronted more than 200 villagers in Svay Rieng province as they tried to occupy land at the centre of a long-running dispute with a development company.
More than 20 officers attended the incident in Ampil commune, Romeas Hek district.
The villagers are unhappy because the government granted NK Venture special permission to build a sugar plantation on the 670 hectares in 2010, but it has still done nothing with the land.
Local people expected the development to create jobs. Since that hasn’t happened, they want the land to farm on.
The stand-off between police and villagers lasted from 9am until 12pm, when villagers decided to call off the protest and go home.
Almost 500 families are involved in the dispute with NK Venture.
Local representative Tiev Saron, 36, said the villagers resorted to occupying the land after earlier protests at Ampil commune hall on Monday and in Romeas Hek district on Tuesday got them nowhere.
“The company is just leaving the land empty and the authorities are offering us no solution. We have no land for farming now. Most of our villagers have had to migrate to other places to work,” she said.
She said the police who came to move them were armed but not violent. “We had a verbal disagreement and they used bad words with us,” she alleged.
Theng Savoeun, a representative of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community, said the villagers owned the land first.
“Their lives are difficult and they need to be able to farm to support themselves,” he said.
Romes Hek district police chief Sam Samol said officers had not threatened villagers.
“Police just went to ask them not to occupy the company’s land,” he said.

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