Kampong Speu Province, Thpong & Oral Districts
Phnom Penh Sugar Co. Ltd. received approval from the Cambodian government for an economic land concession of approximately 9000 ha in Thpong district, Kampong Speu province in February 2010. On the same date, Kampong Speu Sugar Co. Ltd. was awarded an adjacent ELC of 9052 ha in Oral district. The side-by-side concessions are registered to Ly Yong Phat and his wife Kim Heang. On March 21, 2011, Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a sub-decree allowing land in the Oral Wildlife Protected Area to be reclassified and the Kampong Speu Sugar concession to be expanded by 4,700 ha.[v] This brought the total landmass of the three connected concessions to over 23,000 ha – more than twice the size permitted under the Land Law.
The twin concessions encroach on farmland belonging to more than 1500 families in 15 villages in Thpong district and at least six villages in Oral district, though the precise number of people impacted in these villages has not yet been substantiated. In addition to farmland, the concessions overlapped thousands of hectares of surrounding grazing land, water resources and registered community forest that villagers in Thpong and Oral districts relied upon for their livelihoods.
With no prior notice and no court order, company staff accompanied by military, police and local authorities began clearing the villagers’ land in February 2010 and continued into 2011. The land seizures continued into 2011, affecting more than 1500 families in Oral and Thpong districts. One village, Pis, was totally destroyed and its 67 residents were forcibly relocated onto small 40x50m residential plots of rocky land at the foot of the mountain. Some of the families received between $25 – $500 in compensation, or replacement land that was significantly smaller and inferior quality to what was taken. As of January 2014, more than 200 families whose land was grabbed have yet to receive any compensation whatsoever.
The Senator and company representatives have used Cambodia’s notoriously corrupt courts to harass the villagers in Kampong Speu into ending their protests. At least 4 villagers have been jailed since the land seizures began and there are criminal charges, arrest warrants or court summonses currently pending against at least 38 villagers.