About 70 villagers from Koh Kong province delivered petitions to the government and European Union on Thursday to lodge complaints about alleged land grabbing by two sugar plantation firms.
The protesters, representing 147 families from six villages in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts, claim that Koh Kong Sugar and Koh Kong Plantation, majority-owned by Thailand’s Khon Kaen Sugar Ltd, have over the past decade encroached on their farmland and not provided them with compensation.
Phav Nherng, one of the demonstrators, said the group had submitted the petitions to the National Assembly, European Union, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Land Management.
“When the companies do not pay for the compensation or do not cut the contested land [from the plantations] to give to us, we still continue to protest, because without protests we will die. I think we are dying every day because there is no land to grow rice, no rice to eat, and our cows have been sold,” she said.
All the institutions received the petitions and said they would forward them to decision-makers.
Sin Sattha, a spokesman for Phnom Penh Sugar, denied claims made by the villagers that ruling Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat was involved with the companies.
Yong Phat reportedly sold his shares in the companies in 2010.
Representatives of Koh Kong Sugar could not be reached.
Bun Leut, the provincial governor, said that an inter-ministerial committee was studying the claims. “They’re handling it,” he said.
The district governors in Botum Sakor and Sre Ambel, as well as agriculture ministry representatives, could not be reached.
In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said the villagers’ claims were credible and supported by the evidence.
“It’s time that the government, especially the Ministry of Agriculture, helped promote the livelihoods of farmers,” he said.