Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

New airport developer begins clearing farmland, though compensation hasn’t been finalized

OCIC uses excavators to clear farmers’ land in Takhmao city to expand a road to the new airport, photo taken on April 8, 2022. Supplied
OCIC uses excavators to clear farmers’ land in Takhmao city to expand a road to the new airport, photo taken on April 8, 2022. Supplied

The developer of Phnom Penh’s new mega airport in Kandal Stung district on Friday began clearing farmland in Takhmao town to make way for road construction, though a handful of remaining holdouts have yet to see a resolution to their ongoing land dispute. After local authorities intervened, they paused the clearing and gave residents five more days for negotiations.

The remaining six families affected by the 60-meter-wide road project, said the company arrived with excavators and began clearing their land in Prek Ho village, Prek Ho commune, Takmao town.

Heng Leang told CamboJA that the company began clearing the farmland without notice, though they had yet to resolve the dispute.

“At first, I did not care about land disputes, despite many media reports about the issue, I heard about people affected in Kandal Stung district but now it has happened to me,” he said. “I really wonder why they want to take people’s land for free. He [Oknha Pung Kheav Se] is a famous tycoon in Cambodia, why develop to bring the people to tears?”

The $1.5 billion-dollar new airport project developed by The Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) and is owned by the well-connected Oknha Pung Kheav Se in Kandal Stung district covers 2,600 hectares, affecting hundreds of families.

Leang said that the company had negotiated with the remaining affected families, including his, three times. Their final offer of $50 per square meter was rejected, he said. He said that his land, measuring more than 0.2 hectares, would receive about $30,000 dollars in compensation —  and that he was asking for $120 per square meters.

Most families were offered $8 per square meter in compensation, or they could choose to relocate to land set aside for them. 

Though the land dispute has yet to be settled, the company has begun digging up rice fields and wetlands belonging to villagers.

Farmers gather to protest against OCIC for using excavators to clear their farm land for the airport road, photo taken on April 8, 2022. Supplied

Sas Chanthon, another resident, said that part of his farmland as well as his house has been affected by the company’s road development project.

“The company just said that my house is also affected by the road construction project, but they have not yet detailed about the compensation or addressed the affected farmland first,” he said. “I am also worried that my home issue may be subject to improper compensation.”

Chiv Kok Say, who is in charge of land acquisition for the new airport said that the company already dealt with most of the affected people, with only a few families left.

“Compared with the whole project, how can we leave this to be stalled by a few families? This is a national development project because we must complete the construction in 2023 for the SEA Games in Cambodia,” he said.

Kok Say said the company was continuing to discuss compensation, but could not disclose the details. “We continue to negotiate with them to end the problem,” he said.