More than 100 villagers who complain they were evicted from their homes to make way for a CPP senator’s sugarcane plantation rallied in Kompong Speu province on Thursday, contending that their compensation claims remained unresolved, despite claims to the contrary.
Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which was accused of booting more than 1,000 families off their land, and representatives who claimed to stand for displaced villagers said in August that they had reached compensation deals ranging from $500 to $5,000 for all 320 families with proper claims.
Villagers from Kompong Speu province protest in Phnom Penh in August 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)Both the company and the representatives said any remaining claims were being made by opportunists or lawbreakers.
But on Thursday, Tep Nem, the Trapaing Chor commune chief, said more than 100 protesters in Oral district had mobilized outside his office to deny that three of the “representatives”—Rin Sim, Cheng Sopheap and Kloth*Sovann—spoke for their interests.
“They want me to invite the three representatives to clarify their interview on PNN TV about the compensation,” Mr. Nem said, referring to comments about the resolution that the men allegedly made to the television station, which is owned by Mr. Yong Phat.
Mr. Nem repeated the company’s refrain that all disputes were resolved and said the protesters had left after authorities could not contact the three men.
According to Phong Sokit, one of the rally’s four organizers, 539 claims remain unresolved, and the three representatives were, in fact, employed by the plantation.
“Why do they say there are no more families still waiting for compensation?” he asked.
“Those representatives have been bought to work for the company, so they just claimed something false.”
The protesters “do not want the people around the country or international organizations to be confused,” he added, vowing to return.
Phnom Penh Sugar representative Sin Sotha described the protest as “ridiculous” and denied that Mr. Sim, Mr. Sopheap and Ms. Sovann worked for the firm.
The compensation deal was announced in August, ostensibly ending a five-year land battle. At the time, more than 100 protesters marched from Oral district to the Phnom Penh offices of Equitable Cambodia (E.C.), which had been assisting with negotiations. The protesters demanded that the NGO withdraw their formal complaints, saying no legitimate claims remained.
E.C. executive director Eang Vuthy said on Thursday that only 116 out of 545 families who had filed formal complaints with the NGO had requested to be removed from its complaint against the sugar company, and that the true number of farmers who had been kicked off their land totaled “more than a thousand families.”
“We don’t have the capacity to reach out to all that are affected,” he said.
He said land claims required systematic reform rather than one-off agreements with families, which allowed individual company decisions to undermine broader reforms that could serve as a model for other agricultural industries.
odom@cambodiadaily.com, paviour@cambodiadaily.com
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