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10 Feb 2022

Khuon Narim, CamboJA

Cambodia: Joint forces clear land areas disputed with villagers for new airport project without prior compensation

"Villagers’ lands cleared for mega-airport project despite ongoing disputes", 10 February 2022

Despite a land dispute that has yet to be settled, a dozen excavators are being deployed to dig up the rice fields and wetlands belonging to villagers of Kampong Talong, in Kandal Stung district’s Boeung Khyang commune, for the new Phnom Penh International Airport in Kandal province.

Ouch Saovoeun, the governor of Kandal Stung district, said that dozens of police and military officials are being dispatched to prevent any fighting and to implement the instruction of provincial authorities to carry out the works.

“We are waiting to resolve the dispute with the villagers for [$8 per square meter], and if they have disagreed, it is their business,” Saovoeun said. He emphasized the need to develop the country and to complete the $1.5 billion mega-airport project, which also includes the building of a dam to protect the airport from floods…

“We dare not go to the dispute sites because the police forces are everywhere,” he said. He added that the authorities have threatened to arrest them, which has intimidated the villagers and restricted their rights of protest.

… Vannak said the company has stopped negotiating with the villagers and is standing firm on its offer of $8 per square meter – about one-tenth the market rate – or the option of receiving land elsewhere in the surrounding area…

… Soeng Senkaruna, an ADHOC senior investigator, said that land conflicts continue to occur and involve powerful tycoons and high-ranking officials, often exhibiting a lack of research on the social environmental impacts of the developments in question and suitable resolutions…