Thpong & Oral Districts
In February 2010, the company Phnom Penh Sugar Co. Ltd. received approval from the Cambodian government for an economic land concession (ELC) of approximately 9000 ha in Thpong
district, Kampong Speu province. On the same date, another company, Kampong Speu Sugar Co. Ltd. was awarded an adjacent ELC of 9052 ha in Oral district. 2
The side-by-side “twin” concessions are registered to Ly Yong Phat and his wife Kim Heang and little attempt was made by the Cambodian government authorities to demonstrate that the concessions are really for two separate companies. 3 The next year o 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 2001 Land Law.
With no prior notice and no court order, company staff accompanied by military, police and local authorities cleared the concession land beginning in February 2010 and into 2011. These twin concessions encroach on farmland belonging to approximately 1100 families in 10 officially recognized villages and 5 unrecognized villages in Thpong district. An additional 6 villages are affected in Oral district. 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.
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 vast majority of affected people claim to have been living in the area for more than five generations, since the time of the French protectorate. After the Khmer Rouge period, people were able to reoccupy their ancestral farmland. Most people have documentation issued by local authorities in the 1980s and early 1990s that proves their legal possessi
on. Some even have documentation dating back to the 1950s.
Ly Yong Phat 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.
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kampong_Speu_Province#/media/File:Cambodia_Kampong_Speu_locator_map.svg. ↩
- Kingdom of Cambodia, Council of Ministers, Approval letter No 175, February 2010. Available at: http://www.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/pdf-viewer/?pdf=references/Sugar_Request_PM_Approval__22.09.2009.pdf. ↩
- See Open Development’s website for company profiles and available documents: http://www.opendevelopmentcambodia.net/concessions/ . ↩