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KDC International land grab conflict, Kampong Tralach district, Cambodia

Cambodian farmers turn to prayers and curses to combat land grabbing by KDC International. Their resistance goes on for almost twenty years.


The land grab conflict between the Cambodian company KDI International and the villagers of Lorpeang village is a complex story of almost twenty years of farmers’ resistance to maintain their most important livelihood asset – land – in the battle against Cambodia’s vast granting of Economic Land Concessions (ELC) for industrial agricultural development.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:KDC International land grab conflict, Kampong Tralach district, Cambodia
State or province:Kampong Chhnang
Location of conflict:Lor Peang village, Kampong Tralach district
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

No details on amount of investment by KDC could be found. Regarding prupose, some newspaper mention that KDC wants to grow cash crops such as sugarcane.

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Project area:522ha
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:543
Start of the conflict:01/01/1996
Company names or state enterprises:KDC International (KDC) from Cambodia - agro-industry
Relevant government actors:Chea Kheng, wife of Minister of Energy and Mines, Suy Sem
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:ADHOC Kampong Chhnang office (Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association)
Repressions were condemned by an open letter by 28 Cambodian NGOs:
Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (“ADHOC”); Cambodian Defenders’ Project (“CDP”); Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (“LICADHO”); Khmer Institute of Democracy (“KID”); Community Legal Education Center (“CLEC”); Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”); Khmer Youth Association (“KYA”); Cambodian Women in Crisis Center (“CWCC”); Legal Aid of Cambodia (“LAC”); Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility (“CARAM Cambodia”); Cambodian Center for Protection of Children’s Rights (“CCPCR”); Cambodian Health and Human Rights Alliance (“CHHRA”); Cham Khmer Islam Human Rights and Development Association (“CKIMHRDA”); Mission of Generous Cambodian Alliance (“GENEROUS”); Human Rights Organization for Transparency and Peace (“HROTP”); Indradevi Association (“IDA”); Khmer Institute for National Development (“KIND”); Khmer Kampuchea Krom Human Rights Association (“KKKHRA”); People’s Center for Development and Peace (“PDP”); Protection of Juvenile Justice (“PJJ”); Human Rights Vigilance of Cambodia (“VIGILANCE”); Center for Social Development (“CSD”); Center for Justice and Reconciliation (“CJR”); Building Voices of Community (“BCV”); Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (“COMFREL”); Advocacy and Policy Institute (“API”); Khmer Students Association (“KSA”) 
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Property damage/arson
Threats to use arms
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage)
Potential: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Land demarcation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:The main proposal put forward by the villagers was to stop the project, or at least to pay a proper compensation that allows to buy new houses and new, productive land. The proposals put forward by NGOs was a proper investigation of the case and a suspension of the project until land ownership was determined.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:It is difficult to answer this questions, as the story is very complex and so far has entailed many losses for the community. However, until now, large part of the community have resisted for almost twenty years and the project (i.e. industrial agriculture plantations) has not been implemented so far. It is currently still under negotiation/investigation.
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

2005 Subdecree on Economic Land Concessions (ELC) in Cambodia
[click to view]

Cambodia's land law and related regulatory frameworks
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(1) Petilla 2012. AFA Cases on Large Scale Land Acquisition in Asia. research report. (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

(4) Phnom Penh Post article: "Locals block bulldozers, fence"(accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(5) Joint media statement condemning the court decision of sentencing a human rights group officer, signed by 28 NGOs (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(6) Phnom Penh Post article: "After KDC clashes, rage burns" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(7) United Nations Special Rapporteur on the KDC conflict (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(8) Phnom Penh article: "NA commission member vistis kampong chhnang kdc site" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(9) Phnom Penh Post article: "Activists called to testify in KDC land row" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(10) Phnom Penh Post article "Activist takes KDC buyout" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(3) Phnom Penh Post article: "small victory for villagers" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

(2) Phnom Penh Post article: "Plaintiffs called in KDC case" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video (in Khmer) on the burning of company effigies. Villagers turned to curse, after they lost faith in the juridical system.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:A. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update25/02/2015
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