Villagers return to Phnom Penh over UDG land dispute

Phnom Penh: Representatives of Kiri Sakor district villagers in Koh Kong province, who are in a land dispute with Union Development Group, yesterday returned once again to Phnom Penh to ask the Environment Ministry to provide a speedy resolution for them.

Previously, the group visited other institutions, such as the Land Management Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Cabinet office and the United Nations in Cambodia.

Tith Ten, a representative, said a total of 77 families were promised by the Environment Ministry in December that their dispute would be over as early as January. Ms Ten said the ministry has yet to provide a resolution.

“We have been waiting for months already without seeing a ministry official checking [the dispute]. We went to the provincial level for help, but they told us it was the work of the Environment Ministry,” she said. “So here we are, 15 representatives, asking the ministry to help resolve this for us soon.”

Sang Puy, another representative, said the dispute involves more than 1,000 hectares of land. Ms Puy said they were sanctioned by local authorities to live there many years ago.

She said that the government had already provided a resolution to others who are in dispute in the same area, but added not everyone received a resolution.

Ms Puy said the group is asking Environment Ministry officials to visit the disputed area to conduct research and find a solution.

“Other people in the area received resolutions from the ministry. Why won’t they resolve this issue for the remaining 77 families,” she said. “We live there legally – we have the letter of confirmation from commune, district and Land Management Ministry authorities issued in 1992.”

Neth Pheaktra, Environment Ministry spokesman, yesterday said after meeting with the group that the ministry is working hard on their behalf for a resolution.

Mr Pheaktra said an inter-ministerial working group is waiting for the government whether their case should be transferred to the Land Management Ministry’s Land Dispute Resolution Committee.

“We have to wait for the decision of Prime Minister Hun Sen on whether or not this should be resolved by the working group or the LDRC,” he said, noting that the government is now considering disbursing funds at the current market price of the land for the residents