Families facing eviction to make way for a $1.5 billion airport under construction in Kandal province continue to contest the compensation being offered by the project’s developer. This week the company began directly negotiating with some of the more than 60 families who had still refused to accept compensation.
Phlek Phary’s family and two others were summoned to meet with the company on Wednesday. The company offered Phary a package deal of $31,000 for her home and the fence on her land. But the company did not specify a breakdown of the compensation and Phary says she wants at least $36,000 for her home alone, on top of additional compensation for her farmlands.
“I think [the compensation] is still small and is inappropriate to accept,” said Phary, whose home is adjacent to her mother’s home, for which the company offered $33,000. Both mother and daughter rejected the compensation offers. Phary said her mother requested $50,000 because her property includes farmland where she tends to several dozen custard apple, mango, coconut and jackfruit trees.
Phary’s and dozens of other families in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung and Takeo province’s Bati district have disputed the compensation offered for their evictions and relocation. The company has so far offered $8 per square meter for impacted farmland and provide families with 10 months to move to a relocation site being developed three kilometers away.
“Some families still refuse [compensation] because the offer does not match their property value,” said Nai Phorn, a resident of Kampong Talong village, whose home and farmland are being impacted. He had not yet been called to negotiate directly with the developer and remained wary of its intentions.
“The company invites only three or five families once to talk and this is their trick to divide people’s voices,” Phorn said.
Phorn, who says he has not yet received compensation for his approximately one hectare of farmland, is asking for between $50 and $60 per square meter. While the company is reportedly offering him $80,000 per hectare of farm land, Phorn’s desired rate would put him north of $500,000.
“It is impossible to demand the market price,” a spokesperson for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation told CamboJA in March 2021.
Chrek Soknim, president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association, told CamboJA in 2021 that before the new airport project, land prices in the area stood at about $10 per square meter. But since the announcement of the airport’s construction, prices for a small plot have soared to $60 to 70 per square meter while plots on the main road are reaching $100 per square meter.
“Before the project development, the land price here was low and nobody wanted to buy, but now it is different and the price offered by the company based on internal negotiations, it is not related to the market price in general,” he said.
Chiv Kok Say, who is in charge of land acquisition for the new airport, refused to share the rate of compensation the company was offering families. He claimed that most families had already agreed to accept compensation while they have one year to relocate, stating from now.
“For those who have not yet received compensation, we [the company] will continue to negotiate and evaluate based on the type of house and properties on the land,” he said.
Say said that this week the company has met seven families and two families already agreed to accept, while two more appeared likely to do so soon. He denied that inviting families separately was intended to split the people’s voice, saying meeting in smaller groups meant it was easier to resolve the issue.
Say told villagers at a meeting last year that compensation would not be less than $250 per square meter for brick houses.
“I think most people are willing to accept that which is a beneficial compensation for them,” he said.