Cambodian Villagers Protest Loss of Land, Livelihood to Concessions

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Stieng villagers gather to express concerns over the loss of their communal farmland to land concession companies in Tbong Khmum province, April 2015.
Stieng villagers gather to express concerns over the loss of their communal farmland to land concession companies in Tbong Khmum province, April 2015.

Hundreds of indigenous families in eastern Cambodia are facing difficulty securing food after losing their communally shared farmland to several companies as part of government-granted land concessions, villagers and a rights group said Tuesday.

Representatives of the more than 300 ethnic Stieng families from Memot district in Tbong Khmum province told RFA’s Khmer Service that five or six companies were granted the land to establish plantations for crops such as rubber trees, leaving villagers without a source of fish or crops.

A villager named Yem Kong said that before 2005, villagers used to cultivate around 4,000 hectares (9,880 acres) of shared land in a rotating fashion, but it had all been given away through concession licenses.

“We are facing difficulties [providing for ourselves] each day and we will have greater problems if we lose additional land,” he said.

Another Stieng villager named Yong Youn said that since losing the land, she has only one hectare (2.5 acres) of personal land to farm, which she said is not enough to support her family.

She said that she and her children were forced to work as local laborers in jobs that paid 15,000-20,000 riels (U.S. $3.70-4.95) per day to meet their basic needs, while other members of the family had left to find jobs elsewhere.

“We mothers and our children have to work,” she said.

“Some of our children have left us [to find jobs elsewhere].”

Sam Say, the deputy chief of Changkum Kandal village, in Memot’s Tonlung commune, said indigenous villagers in the area have been increasingly relying on farmland provide for their families, but that nothing was left for them after 2006.

“The villagers are living in a desperate situation,” he said.

Tonlung deputy commune chief Poeng Bunthorn confirmed that five to six companies were taking land from two area communes, with one company receiving at least 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of land in a concession, and said many of the villagers were now working for the companies.

But he denied claims that the villagers once collectively owned around 4,000 hectares of land and urged them to contact him if they did not have enough to feed their families.

“I appeal to the villagers—if they don’t have enough land for cultivation, please report to me so that I can request the government grant them a social land concession,” he said.

Cost of concessions

Neang Sovath, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said land concessions were causing problem for villagers in the area.

“More people are getting poorer and losing jobs,” he said.

He blamed local authorities for inaccurate and opaque reporting to the government ahead of the granting of concession licenses, and said corruption was also contributing to land disputes.

“I believe those who reported to the government [for issuing land concession licenses] must be corrupt officials,” he said, urging authorities to reexamine concessions in Tbong Khmum province.

Land disputes are a bitter problem for Cambodia, where rural villagers and urban dwellers alike have been mired in conflicts that the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia has warned could threaten the country’s stability.

The country’s land issues date from the 1975-79 Khmer Rouge regime, which forced large-scale evacuations and relocations, followed by a period of mass confusion over land rights and the formation of squatter communities when the refugees returned in the 1990s after a decade of civil war.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Comments (3)


Thanks for the insight from the two comments is true world modernization is inevitable and probably khmer civilzation disappear it looks like a modern vietnamese country now no more khmer ppl left.

Jul 05, 2015 01:19 AM


Land concession is harsh, cruel but necessary for any country. That's life. Many believe that the Western societies are better form of civilization than poorer Asians'. But before they are able to become rich and modernized civilization. They had gone through even higher form of "land concession" that is western colonization (Westerners basically colonized entire Asia). and persecution/annihilation of underdeveloped people such as American vs Indian (American natives). For poor country that are now only developing that trying to build up, this become a thing that is inevitable.

Jun 03, 2015 11:44 PM

Dan toc Ede.

from Dak Lak

Land concession is a crime that is not different from a genocide. The UN declaration rights of Indigenous peoples is a joke to Cambodia and Vietnam government.
If you just look at the tires of luxury
Rolls Roy . Cadillac, Lexus, BMW.. you have created in your souls full of lies and hypocrisy never and never shame of stirring your nose , thumb your chest for saying that you bring the development, job, prosperity to Indigenous peoples ??? Look at the Central Highlands of Vietnam since you introduce this evil robber trees,the Montagnards had been disappeared along with their rain forest.
Your civilization is so HEINOUS, so CRUEL are the most MALIGNANT species on earth !!1

May 13, 2015 07:41 AM





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