About 200 people from Kampot and Kandal provinces gathered yesterday at the Land Ministry asking for two separate disputes with development companies to be resolved.

The protesters asked the ministry to take land from the companies for them to us because they were struggling to make a living.

Bo Sambath, a representative of 308 families from Techo Angkanh and Techo Chrey Bak villages in Kampot province, said their dispute over 1,231 hectares with First Bio-Tech Agricultural (Cambodia) began in 2013.

The company, supported by armed forces, had cleared the land, burning houses and threatening people, he said.

Mr Sambath said that on July 11 the company and authorities had gone to remove their homes and arrested three people, including one journalist, and put them in prison.

“When we went to our house, they shot at us, they destroyed the house. There is nothing left,” he said. “People were arrested and put in jail. They shot people and accused the people of anarchy.

“We would like to ask the Prime Minister and the ministry to help us.”

According to a petition and documents submitted to the ministry, most of the villagers have lived on the land since 2007, and some since 2010.

Meanwhile, Meourn Sarith, a representative of villagers from Steung Chrov village in Kandal province, said 350 families were affected by land grabbing in the Boeung Chi Po community by the ING Holding company.

The dispute involves 74,153 square metres of land and kicked off in 2016. It has left the community with no land to use for any purpose, Mr Sarith said.

He said that people had used the lake and fished there since 1979, and gained a certificate of ownership that was issued by the provincial authority in 1992.

Mr Sarith asked the ministry to give the land back to the people because it did not belong to the company. The company had grabbed the land and then got land titles in Phnom Penh.

The company had asked the people to leave and not to grow any crops, he said.

On Tuesday, Kandal Provincial Governor Mao Pirun sent a letter to the ministry asking it to review the management history and land use in Boeung Chi Po and review the procedure of issuing ownership to ING Holding.

He asked where the company got the land from, whether the officers checked and measured the administrative boundaries and what map they used.

Ministry administration official Ol Sok Yos said the ministry would follow legal procedures to find a solution for the people.

First Bio-Tech Agricultural (Cambodia) and ING Holdings could not be reached for comment.

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Photo source: Julia Maudlin via Flickr/Creative Commons (CC By-NC-ND 2.0). Photo: ©Julia Maudlin

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