Cambodian Youth Party (CYP) president Pich Sros has accused Kandal province authorities of preventing him from probing a decade-old land dispute involving hundreds of families, a charge the provincial governor denies.
Sros, who is also a member of the Supreme Consultation and Advisory Council (SCAC), told The Post on Tuesday that a representative of 292 families in Kandal Stung district, Takhmao town, had asked him to help resolve a dispute between their community and a private company over an alleged land grab.
But when Sros arrived, by his account, local officials did not allow him to meet with the people or investigate the dispute, saying he did not have the required paperwork. He also implied that he was threatened.
“Kandal Provincial Governor Mao Phirun said he would not be responsible for anything that might happen to me under his control, because I don’t have a mission letter of investigation,” said Sros.
He said as a member of the SCAC, he has the right to look into national issues and social problems without a mission letter.
Phirun rejected the account, saying that he did not prevent Sros from investigating.
The governor countered that Sros did not follow proper administrative procedures and was trying to earn political capital.
“Pich Sros called to inform me that he would meet with people who are involved in a land dispute. I asked him whether he came as a member of a political party or as a member of the Supreme Consultative Council?"
“And I asked, do you have a letter of mission? Pich Sros said he did not, so I told him I cannot work with you because I don’t work with people who do not have any documentation to enter the places under my control,” Phirun said.
He said if Sros came as a member of the SCAC, he should have proper legal documents.
“The Supreme Council of Consultation works as a team, and he came alone, which means that he came as an individual. Therefore, he came for political gain only,” he said.
Beyond the conflicting claims, the land dispute in Kandal is nothing new. Oieng Yan, the local representative who contacted Sros, said the conflict started 10 years ago and involves 450ha that is claimed by Heng Development Company and its director Seang Chan Heng.
The local families have repeatedly accused Heng Development of stealing the land they lived on in the Kandal villages of Prek Ho, Ampov Prey and Chmar Puon.
They said that additional land was taken in the communes of Cheung Keub and Kandaok, as well as in Toul Tamok village.
The families said they had lived in those areas since 1987, but in 2004 Heng Development filed complaints that they were living illegally on the company’s land.
Chan Heng, the director, has been a vocal force in the dispute. She submitted a letter to Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara in June requesting a public forum for the local people who accused her company of land grabbing.
She wrote on her Facebook page that if her company violated people’s land, she is willing to give it back and take responsibility under the law. However, she said if the people’s claim is proved to be untrue, then they have defamed her.
This long-running dispute has already been discussed in several courts and ministries. In June, the Ministry of Land Management released a statement that it “would not participate in solving this land dispute. Therefore, the representatives of all 292 families are informed.”