NGOs called to verify data on Koh Kong land dispute

Source : Phnom Penh Post

Villagers protest over the land dispute in Koh Kong province that has been ongoing for more than 10 years. Photo supplied

The Koh Kong provincial government on Tuesday called on civil society organisations and relevant institutions to help verify data involving a land dispute between villagers and a Chinese company.

However, human rights group Adhoc said it did not receive an invitation from the provincial authority.

A press release obtained by The Post on Wednesday said civil society groups are invited to participate as observes in the process of data collection and verification to identify land that villagers reside on and use in Kiri Sakor district’s Prek Ksach commune.

The land in question is in the midst of a dispute with Union Development Group (UDG).

Previously, Wildlife Alliance sent its representatives to participate in the process.

Adhoc’s Soeng Senkarona said the group is keen to cooperate with authorities and relevant institutions, but it had not received an invitation.

“We welcome all requests seeking assistance in social work, but so far we have not received any letter to participate,” he said.

Sem Thy, a villager in Prek Ksach commune, said nearly 200 families have been locked in the dispute with UDG for more than 10 years. Thy called on the authorities to find a solution to the long-running dispute.

“Villagers are waiting for the case to end. We’ve been waiting for a long time. Previous protests cost us too much time and money. There has been a lot of damage. We are sick and tired of it,” he said.

The provincial government has set up a specific task force to directly handle the issue.

In a press release dated July 10, the ministries of Environment, and Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction will cooperate with provincial authorities to “collect data identifying land that villagers actually occupy and live on.

“From July 10, there are task forces to collect data for about four weeks in Kiri Sakor district’s Prek Ksach commune. During that time, concerned people should fill out forms and provide documents to the taskforces. If people fail to comply on time, the task forces will not be responsible for the loss of benefits for them,” it said.

Koh Kong authority said after the data collection process in Prey Khsach commune ends, the task forces will continue to collect data in concerned villages and communes in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts until the process completes.

UDG has received an economic land concession of more than 40,000 hectares since 2008. The company plans to construct a major tourist attraction in Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts, in the heart of Botum Sakor National Park. The $4 billion project will take 25 years to complete.

 

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