Around 300 ax- and knife-wielding villagers amassed in protest in Kampot province Monday, claiming a private company was clearing their land.
The company, Camland, has a 70-year license from the government to develop 1,600 hectares of palm for oil in Teuk Chhou district.
One protester, Loey Koun, 42, told VOA Khmer the residents of three villages in the district have long occupied the land of their “ancestors.” If the company does not remove its bulldozers, Loey Koun said, “we will light them on fire.”
Try Chhoun, Kampot coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the villagers tried to stop the bulldozers clearing the land, near the villages of Triam Kok, Dong and Kampong Chin. No one was injured, he said.
Kampot Governor Khoy Khun Huor and Teuk Chhou Governor Se Da both declined to comment Monday.
Phrak Putheareak, Camland’s representative, denied the accusations the company was clearing villager land.
“Our company received a license from the government for about 16,000 hectares of land to develop a palm oil plantation over about 70 years,” he said. The company has already cut 3,000 hectares of land, he said and he called on complaining villagers to produce documents of proof.