Road Land Compensation Inadequate: Families

Families affected by the construction of National Road No. 71 C, which connects Chamkar Leu district to Tbong Khmum province, have been angered by what they say is inadequate compensation for their land. Photo by Isa Rohany

Farmer fears ruin of income source

TBONG KHMUM--Families affected by the construction of National Road No. 71 C, which connects Chamkar Leu District to Tbong Khmum Province, have been angered by what they say is inadequate compensation for their land.

Tam Issa, a resident of Village 5 in Svay Khleang Commune, said he did not accept the government’s efforts to address the impact of the project.

“Are 60 cents per square meter acceptable?” he said. “It’s too cheap. The project can ruin my source of income. This fish farming business has helped my children get an education, so I refuse to give my fish farming pond to them.”

In late February, the working group of the Impact Management Committee of the project visited the people and told them about the compensation.

Issa said that the project affected nearly 3,000 square meters of his farmland, including the pond where he was raising fish. He believed the ministry should compensate at an acceptable price as it affected his family's daily life.

“I am very happy to see the development of roads in the village. We also want development and are not against this. But we just want acceptable compensation,” said Issa.

Chhay Vutha, another affected villager, has not yet given her thumb print  to accept compensation, saying the ministry was not clear on the preparation of compensation plans, as some affected assets were not included in the payment document.

“We asked to see the payment document. They had calculated the impact of my house, but it was wrong.” Vutha said. “They did not include two toilets. Moreover, there are 20 brick fences, but only 10 were calculated.”

The project affected 700 square meters of her land, house and plantation.

“In the past, we did not allow them to measure our land until there was appropriate compensation. Then 3-4 of us were called for a meeting at the commune office,” she said.

“We said the land in this area had a high market price, so the land was expensive. We said that we would allow the land measurement if only the reasonable compensation was in a contract.

“The commune authorities also agreed, so we printed our thumbs. But the compensation turned out to be disappointing. They promised to pay $15 per square meter but now they would give only $10.”

Hak Sok Makara, chairman of the sub-committee on the impact management of the road, said it was a national project, so provincial authorities do not know the prices for compensation.

This was the work of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

He added that in general, people always want a high price but the price is set by the Royal Government.

“We should understand that this impact management project is procedurally monitored and evaluated by an independent company that works on land value when there is no shortcut to ask for guidelines from the Royal Government,” Makara said.

“When the Royal Government has decided, the Ministry Commission will implement this decision. This demand of the people is common because they always want the high price of compensation, but we should look at the progress of the construction. Some land is not affected.

“Therefore, only the cooperation from the people and the government can make this project successful. But we may not be able to respond to the demanded compensation of the people.” 

Makara said there are many procedures to come up with a price, so this is not a price that has been set to oppress the people or put a burden on them. He said that an independent company had evaluated and studied the area since before the project.

“At that time, it had a different value,” he said. “It had another value when this project occurred. Once this project is done, the land price will be going up again.”

According to the price that the officials of the Impact Management Committee told the people, the farmland affected by National Road No. 71 C, is compensated at $1.3 per square meter.

As for the roads across the main road, which is mostly village land with houses and plantations, the government gives $4 per square meter and $10 per square meter for house land.

Most people deem the price unacceptable and far different from the current market price. The price of land currently being bought by traders along National Road 71 C is already $10 per square meter, while land in the crossroads area is between $30 and $50 per square meter.

So far, the provincial working group has not determined the exact number of affected people and the amount of land.

Hak Sok Makara said the impact assessment has not been completed yet, because this work is not only done on the main road, but also along nine other lanes.

The National Road No. 71 C project was announced in November, with a total length of 114 kilometers connecting Chamkar Leu district Kampong Cham province and Kroch Chhmar district, Tbong Khmum district, and some parts of Tambor district of Tbong Khmum province.

Shanghai Construction Group (SCG) is building the road under concessional financing and a grant from the Chinese government. The road was delayed during the outbreak of COVID-19 while the project had been scheduled to end simultaneously with the Cambodia-China Stung Trang-Kroch Chhmar Friendship Bridge.

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