Families locked in Kandal land row seek compromise

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Villagers gather on the disputed land in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district in June. Heng Chivoan

Most of the 329 families from seven villages with crops planted on state land in the Chamkar Barang area of Tuol Prich commune in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district have refused to accept the inter-ministerial settlement policy that seeks to relocate them to make way for possible development projects sponsored by the ministries of National Defence and Environment that are considered high priority by the government.

Villagers and authorities said the inter-ministerial working group was offering financial compensation of $1,100 per hectare of land per year for the next four years in order to cover the lost income from crops planted on the land but only around 30 families have agreed to the deal.

Koam Rith, 40, a resident of Tuol Prich commune’s Ang Ta Set village, told The Post on September 14 that all the residents were dissatisfied with the group’s solution because they had been farming on this land for about 30 or 40 years now, but the payments provided to them would just cover four years.

According to Rith, the authorities had warned that if the residents did not accept the compensation, they would just use tractors to clear the land and would not be offering any further money.

“They want to give us only $1,100 per hectare of crops for four years though we have been farming here for 40 years. People are not satisfied. Maybe there is no one to help us? We asked for help from the commune and district authorities but they ignored us because they are all on the same side,” he said.

Rith said if he accepted the working group’s offer, he would receive more than $4,000 because he had about 1ha but people with smaller plots would only get about $400 to $800.

Phann Phan, deputy chief of Ang Ta Set village, told The Post on September 14 that a meeting was held on September 13 between the inter-ministerial officials and residents. The officials decided to provide compensation to the people who were relying on the land at the price of $0.40 per square metre of crops.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan and Ang Snoul district governor Khon Serey Ratha could not be reached for comment on September 14.

Moeun Run, a member of the Tuol Prich commune council, said the working group on September 13 visited and disseminated their proposed solution to the people on compensation for the loss of their agricultural crops, but this was not meant to be equivalent to the value of the land itself because the villagers in question did not own it as it was state land.

Citing inter-ministerial officials, he said the land belongs to the state.

“People do not understand, we don’t calculate the price as $0.40 per square metre of land because the state is not paying for the land. We are providing compensation for the value of the crops,” he said.

Run said that after the announcement about the proposed compensation, more than 30 families elected to begin receiving their payments out of the 329 families who are eligible.

“People should take the money because the state isn’t offering them any other choice,” he said.