The Case of Omlaing Commune, Kompong Speu Province.
Mu Sochua and a team of 16 other SRP representatives traveled to Ouprolou village, Kompong Speu Province on Thursday 26th August, to meet with and support a group of 50 villagers who are being menaced of eviction. However, in total, it is 11 villages, covering 9,993 hectares that are concerned. 2,000 families are involved in a land dispute with the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.
The dispute began 3 months ago, when the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by CPP senator Ly Yong Phat, was granted the land concession of Omlaing Commune, in Thpong District, for sugar plantations, and thus threatening the livelihood of its inhabitants. According to the company representative, Chheang Kimsruon, “[the company] bought the land legally from villagers and [has] land titles”.1 It is now planning to exploit the land, planting 1,000 hectares of sugarcane in 2010, and a further 3,000 next year. Villagers are thus being asked to leave their houses and rice fields and have officially been offered compensations.
However, as Phal Vanank, a local representative, said earlier this week, “everything that [the] company has promised before is a lie”.2 The villagers have not received anything until now. They have instead seen their houses destroyed and have been forced to live on a 200-meters strip of land along a local road, with no food provisions, health protection and schooling for the children. As Mu Sochua explained, farmers have lost so much time fighting for their land, that they are missing the planting season, which will have dramatic health and economic consequences. Further, this has forced people to migrate to Phnom Penh and even abroad, to countries including South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia. This is having deep consequences for local living as well as social and family dynamics.
The villagers have disputed the agreement, organizing protests, including this week in Phnom Penh, infront of the company’s office. They have also sought support from the SRP, who earlier this month wrote a letter of complaint to the Prime Minister, Hun Sen. However, his response has been a total denial of the fact that Cambodians are being evicted from their land, instead blaming the SRP for creating trouble locally and nationally. Yet, SRP representatives are not ready to let another case of land grabbing remain unspoken of, and Cambodian citizens silenced.
Yesterday’s visit of 17 SRP deputies, including representatives from Kompong Speu and Phnom Penh, was to bring moral support to local citizens, as well as to push them to remain united and strong infront of the authorities’ pressure. Rohb Doul Muth, local deputy for SRP, spoke in the name of the party, declaring he would bring the issue forward again in public, next week at the National Assembly. Further, legal support and monitoring will be organized, with the support of local NGOs, including ADHOC and COMFREL.
1. “Villagers Decry Missed Meet”, May Titthara, The Phnom Penh Post, August 26th 2010.
2. “Villagers Decry Missed Meet”, May Titthara.