Families affected by an ongoing land dispute with the new mega-airport project in Kandal province are seeking the help of top CPP leaders to find a more equitable solution.
More than 50 families gathered Tuesday morning in front of the CPP headquarters to submit a petition to the party leadership but were turned away from police, who did not allow them to gather at the party office and asked them to go instead to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet office in Takmao.
Im Dara, a representative of the villagers who claimed to be a CPP commune council candidate for the 2022 election, said the people of Kandal Stung district came to the party headquarters after their requests to relevant institutions had so far been rejected.
“Villagers came to Samdech for help, and I do not believe it is unfair of us. I am a grassroots member of the CPP and most of the victims are CPP members,” he said.
The petition, as seen by CamboJA, asks Hun Sen, Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Senate leader Say Chhum and National Assembly president Heng Samrin to intervene in the ongoing land dispute.
Khim Socheat was also part of the group who petitioned Tuesday at the CPP headquarters. From a similarly disputed area of Putsar village of Takeo province, Socheat said he hopes the upcoming commune election would help provide a better solution for the villagers now fighting to keep land amidst the development of the major new airport.
“In the new year, we hope to see a better solution than the old year, and Samdech [Hun Sen] will help solve it,” he said. “I think that in the 2022 commune election, if he does not help address the issue, people may not go to the polls because they do not know who to trust anymore.”
Chhorn Chanthol, a villager from the affected Kampong Talong village who also came to Phnom Penh, said that asking for intervention from the prime minister was the last resort.
“We went everywhere seeking help but there is still no solution. Samdech [Hun Sen] is the last place, and we want Samdech to help solve it for people,” she said.
Hundreds of families have been locked in disputes for more than three years over the $1.5 billion airport project developed by Overseas Cambodia Investment Corp (OCIC), which is owned by the well-connected Oknha Pung Kheav Se.
According to villagers, the company is continuing to clear people’s land, although not yet agreed on a price to compensate them for the loss of property. So far, the company insists on a price of $8 dollar per square meter, which the locals have refused as being below the market rate.
Nine people have been charged with multiple crimes, including intentional violence with aggravating circumstances, obstructing a public official with aggravating circumstances and incitement to commit a felony, by the Kandal provincial court after protesting the land clearances in September.
Kandal governor Kong Sophorn did not comment when reached by CamboJA, saying that provincial authorities have yet to receive any updated information on the long-running and highly publicized disputes.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of the rights group Licadho, echoed the villagers, saying that people turned to the country’s ruling party after they found no solution from the state’s relevant institutions.
“Before, we had never seen an affected land community seeking intervention from the party,” Sam Ath said. “We see that there will be a commune election next year and general election in 2023, so maybe people believe that the party could help solve the issue.”
Sam Ath urged relevant authorities to promptly address the issue to avoid a long protest that could lead to violence and imprisonment.