Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

500 Kandal Families Petition Authorities to Halt Evictions for Airport Development

Villagers living near a new airport gather in front of the Kandal hall to submit a petition asking to be excluded from the development plan on April 24, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
Villagers living near a new airport gather in front of the Kandal hall to submit a petition asking to be excluded from the development plan on April 24, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Hundreds of families facing displacement from a $1.5 billion airport project in Kandal province petitioned the provincial governor Monday, requesting authorities grant them land titles and allow them to continue living on the land.

“Because we have all been living here for long years and our children can go to school, and [we are] near the hospital and other public services,” the letter read.

More than 500 families from four villages in Kandal Stung district’s Kandok commune and Takmao town’s Kampong Samnanh commune signed the petition.

One  Kandal Stung resident, 36-year-old Muth Chansophany, said she met with provincial deputy governor Nouv Peng Chandara and asked for him to spare her community’s houses around the site of the airport development project.

Chansophany, who has been living there for 16 years, said she refuses to relocate because it would make her family poorer.

“I will have no money to build a new house if I was relocated and I don’t want it to happen,” she said. “If there is no solution, people will continue to make demands.”

Villagers living near a new airport gather in front of the Kandal hall to submit a petition asking to be excluded from the development plan on  April 24, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

Chansophany said that people in the area of the airport’s development guard the village against forced displacement.  “We are in fear since they [local authority] always ask people for land titles which the people don’t have,” she said.

In late November, families living in the area known as “94 canal,” said that workers they recognized to be both airport staffers and local authorities spray painted red marks on dozens of homes around five kilometers from the site of the new airport, still under construction.

Kandal provincial deputy governor Nouv Peng Chandara said that authorities had accepted the petition and met with the petitioners but said he could not comment on the outcome.

“I cannot tell the results yet, we have to wait for the provincial governor and we will have some meetings [on the issue],” Chandara told CamboJA.

Chiv Kok Say, who is in charge of land acquisition for the new airport, told CamboJA in February that infrastructure would need to be developed in the area encompassing the families’ homes to avoid flooding of the airport during the rainy season. 

The company has recently begun attempting to negotiate directly with individual families from among the more than 60 families in Kampong Talong village still holding out for greater compensation. 

The company has reportedly been offering prices well below current market rates. The new airport covers 2,600 hectares and villagers are being offered approximately $8 per square meter for their farmland even though it has already been cleared by the company.

The company reported that 17 families had accepted the latest offer last week, but other families told CamboJA they remained unhappy with the terms.

Human rights NGO Licadho’s Operations Director Am Sam Ath said that the development for the airport requires the input and participation of people.

“Development must align with human rights, respect, and a solution that is transparent and fair,” he said. “It is a good solution if the authority could cut these homes from the development site for residents since it reduces the impact on people’s livelihood.”

Villagers living near a new airport gather in front of the Kandal hall to submit a petition asking to be excluded from the development plan on  April 24, 2023. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
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