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Home Bulldozed in Sugar Company Dispute

A group of villagers lit incense, in Kampong Speu province.
A group of villagers lit incense, in Kampong Speu province.

Police and security guards for the Phnom Penh Sugar Co, Ltd, bulldozed one house in Kampong Speu province Monday, but a rights worker said he expects at least 20 more families to be pushed from their homes in coming days.

No one was injured in Monday morning’s demolition, which was part of an ongoing land dispute in Thpong district’s Omlieng commune. At least two local police and three security guards for the company accompanied the bulldozer, witnesses said.

“My house was completely destroyed without warning from the company, demolished this morning,” said Nut Sary, 35, a mother of two children whose husband is a motorcycle taxi driver in Phnom Penh. “I bought this land in 2000 and also have proper documents. The company said my house was illegal. The company has abused my rights for living.”

She told VOA Khmer she wants the company to pay compensation, but she did not say how much.

Chheang Kim Sun, a spokesman for the company, said Monday the house was not properly documented and was sitting on company land.

Phnom Pehn Sugar is owned by Ly Yong Phat, a powerful senator for the Cambodian People’s Party. The company was granted nearly 8,000 hectares of land in a government concession in 2002, but in recent months it has expanded its plantations.

Villagers say the company moved onto their legal land and have staged numerous protests since February. At least two men were arrested in connection with protests that included the burning of several company buildings and a bulldozer.

Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the company failed to announce the demolition to the family.

At least 20 families have told Licadho they expect their houses to be knocked down this week, he said.

Omlieng Commune Chief Hak Dam said she was not aware of the demolition but promised to investigate. Phnom Penh Sugar has in the past destroyed houses that lack legitimate paperwork, she said.