Representatives and villagers across six provinces, representing 27 different communities, gathered in Phnom Penh on Tuesday to advocate and petition the government for a resolution to their long-standing land disputes.
The villagers came from the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, Tbong Khmum, Svay Rieng and Kandal. They filed petitions at the Ministry of Land Management and Ministry of Agriculture to find a quick resolution to their land disputes.
Representatives from Kampong Speu, additionally, petitioned the European Union Delegation in Phnom Penh in relation to their dispute with sugar tycoon Ly Yong Phat.
The government had recently stated that all disputes arising from Ly Yong Phat’s sugar plantations had been resolved. The land dispute is also part of the EU’s investigation into the potential suspension of the ‘Everything But Arms’ trade preferences.
Soeng Sokhom, a 52-year-old community representative from Kampong Speu, said despite multiple attempts to petition the government, villagers were yet to find an amicable resolution to the dispute.
He also wanted the EU to push the government to pay the villagers compensation for their land, by following a transparent and just process.
Soeng Sokhom said the lack of a resolution had resulted in people migrating from the province or are now burdened with debt.
“Some have migrated from their villages because they don’t have land, and those who are still living there are poor, and about 99 percent of those living in the communes have loans,” he said.
Seng Loth, spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management, could not be reached for comment and the EU Delegation in Cambodia did not respond to requests for comment.
Ly Yong Phat refused to comment on the land disputes in relation to his sugarcane plantations, referring all questions to the Ministry of Land Management.
“I don’t know if I am wrong or right. I don’t know about it myself…therefore, I don’t know what to tell you.” he said.