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Koh Kong Villagers Promised Land Dispute Resolution Before Election

Villagers riding motorcycles are seen leaving Sre Ambel district office on March 26, 2018, after appealing to the district governor about the status of their ongoing land disputes between villagers and sugarcane companies, Koh Kong province, Cambodia. (Photo provided by local rights Adhoc in Koh Kong province)

The authorities said that all plots of land would be measured and allocated prior to the July 29 election.

More than 100 villagers impacted by sugar plantation companies in Koh Kong province staged a protest on Monday, according to rights groups.

According to rights monitors, the protesters were approached by the deputy governor of the province, Orn Pheareak, during the demonstration at the Ministry of Land Management, who asked them to return to their homes and promised to resolve the dispute.

A statement later released by the government said the authorities would work to measure plots of land for the villagers, who have been embroiled in a long-running dispute with the Koh Kong plantation and Koh Kong sugar industry companies.

The authorities said that all plots of land would be measured and allocated prior to the July 29 election.

Orm Phun, 65, one of the protesters, asked that the authorities expedite the work.

The villagers from Koh Kong were blocked by military police led by Suon Sitha, the deputy governor of Sre Ambil district, on Monday as they attempted to reach the capital to hold the protest, according to rights groups.

Am Sam Ath, chief of rights group Licadho’s investigation unit, said the government must hurry to end the dispute.

“I’m worried when there are such positive statements but the issues can’t be addressed for the people. The people will come back, and the issue will get hotter and more controversial as happened yesterday when the authorities blocked the cars to stop them,” he said.

“We worry that in the next days if the issue can’t be addressed, violence could take place.”

Phearak, the deputy governor, said the authorities would attempt to speed up the dispute resolution process.