Lor Peang, Cambodia, 17 July, 2014 – Dozens of families whose lands are being grabbed by KDC International in Ta Ches and Chhruk Sor communes in Kampong Tralach District, Kampong Chhnang province, held a press conference in Lor Peang village to appeal to the Cambodian Government and public for justice. The families asked the government to respect their rights to live with dignity on the lands that they have farmed for decades, and end the violence being perpetrated against them by KDC International and thugs hired as workers by the company.

Speaking on behalf of the families, Mrs. Um Sophy of Lor Peang said: “We are farmers, we are living on our farming land; if we can’t have it there will be no meaning for our life. We need a real investigation on the land dispute; please come to find out the real facts — who is wrong and right.”

She contested claims by KDC and local authorities that the affected families have been compensated fairly and are protesting only to get more money. The majority of the 82 families protesting the land grab want their lands back, not monetary compensation.

On July 7, armed military and police entered the village to ostensibly serve court summons to Mrs. Um Sophy, which angered village residents who gathered at her home. Military and police personnel have remained in the village and are providing protection to KDC workers as they build a wall around the lands taken by the company. Village residents are unable to farm their lands and have no other livelihood.

Um Sophy appealed to the government to show humanity and help the affected families, saying: “The longer the land dispute is prolonged, the more we suffer. Now we do not have enough food because we lost our farmland.”

KDC has also triggered violence and physical insecurity in the area. Led by their foreman, some KDC workers have been shooting large stones and iron chunks into the area around Sophy’s house, endangering villagers, especially infants and children. The foreman has ordered workers to shoot projectiles at any visitor who goes near the wall or takes photographs. On July 17, gunshots were heard from the KDC side of the wall. Police present in the village have made no attempts to stop the KDC thugs; instead, new warrants have been issued to village residents for inciting violence and attacking private property.

According to Sophy, “When we stand near our land, the police said we are wrong, even if we do not take any action, they say are wrong. We urge the government to arrest the real perpetrators here.”

In a statement on July 10, United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia Surya P. Subedi appealed to the Cambodian Government to provide justice to the affected families: “For more than ten years now, the local community has been embroiled in a dispute over contested land and the complaints that they have sought to lodge with the court system against the authorities and KDC International for the alleged intimidation, violence and land loss, have remained unaddressed.”

While other rural communities empathize with and support the 82 families, the local press claims that UN human rights officials are inciting them to protest. According to Ms. Sivy, a supporter from Pursat, “This is the time when rural people plant rice; instead, the families here are forced to fight for their land.”

For more information, contact the press officer at Focus on the Global South: [email protected], +66 098 374 2418.