No relief for land feud villagers

Source: Khmer Times

Authorities urged villagers to stop farming on the company land. Supplied

Svay Rieng provincial authorities on Monday met 250 villagers involved in a dispute over land given to a company called NK Venture.

The company was granted government permission to build a sugar plantation on 670 hectares of land in 2010, but the plot is still empty.

Residents of Romeas Hek district’s Ampil commune want to farm on the land, but local authorities have accused them of illegally occupying private property.

Sum Manet, an official from the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, said Svay Rieng authorities invited 250 villagers representing 440 families for talks on solving the dispute.

He said the meeting lasted from 8am until 12pm, during which the authorities called on villagers to stop attempting to farm on the land, because NK Venture had sole rights to its use.

“The meeting was unsuccessful because the provincial authority just defended the company rather than helping the villagers,” he said.

He added officials had told villagers they would face legal action if they continued to trespass on the land.

Village representative Khiue Savon said locals needed the land to feed themselves and their families.

Local people expected the development of the land to result in many jobs being created, but nothing has happened.

“We do not accept the result of the meeting and the authority’s appeal for us to stop what we are doing. We thought they were going to help us but they just defended the company,” she said.

Last week, three villagers accused of illegal land grabbing appeared for questioning at Svay Rieng court.

Deputy provincial governor Pech Savan said the government had long given the land to NK Venture.

“The villagers have been occupying the land illegally,” he said.

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