Representatives of evicted families and a sugarcane plantation owned by a prominent CPP senator announced an agreement on Thursday that provides compensation ranging from $500 to $5,000 to eligible villagers after a five-year battle over land.
The deal was meant to put an end to claims of land-grabbing against Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company.
Villagers from Kompong Speu province protest in Phnom Penh on Thursday calling for the NGO Equitable Cambodia to drop a complaint filed against the Phnom Penh Sugar Company on their behalf. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)Afterward, more than 100 of the villagers from Kompong Speu province’s Oral district traveled to the Phnom Penh offices of the NGO Equitable Cambodia (E.C.) and onward to the E.U.’s office, asking the land rights NGO to withdraw its complaint against the company.
“All of us have received compensation,” said village representative Lot Sovann, adding that 320 families with titles or other documents to support their land claims had now agreed to compensation packages.
Ms. Sovann said that the remaining 20 or 30 families had no legitimate claim to the land, a claim echoed by a banner with the words “Do not use our issue to serve your NGO work,” which the villagers unfurled in front of E.C.’s office.
“If there are new groups that show up, they might have to face the law,” she said.
The new agreement follows a May deal in which families with more tenuous claims to their property reached a compensation agreement. Village representatives said at the time that families with stronger land claims were holding out for more money.
Sin Sotha, a spokesman for the sugar company, said on Thursday that a committee of local authorities had assessed the legitimacy of the claims and that compensation had been distributed to villagers accordingly.
“In total, 313 families received compensation,” he said, adding that another seven families had reached deals after the committee finished its work.
Villagers who lacked documentation, but who had demarcated their land with fences, received $500, according to Mr. Sotha, while those whose claims were recognized by local authorities, but who lacked written records, received between $1,000 and $2,000. Villagers with “complete documents” received between $2,500 and $5,000, he said.
Mr. Sotha said that authorities had found no basis for the remaining families’ claims, and that it would be “ridiculous” for E.C. to continue advocating for them.
Eang Vuthy, E.C.’s executive director, said his organization respected the agreement but needed to check the names of villagers against its own records before closing the case.
“We agreed to withdraw their complaint, but we need to review the families listed in the representative’s document,” Mr. Vuthy said.
“If there are some names that are not on their document withdrawing the complaint, we will continue to find solutions for them.”
odom@cambodiadaily.com
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