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
NameKDC International land grab conflict, Kampong Tralach district, Cambodia
ProvinceKampong Chhnang
SiteLor 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)Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsNo 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.

The land demarcated by the company covered 522ha (1).

When the conflict started, around 92% of farmers depended on subsistence farming, for which reason land was their single most important livelihood asset (1)

A total of 119 families are affected, equivalent to 543 persons (275 of them women) (1)

While, according to KDC, the deal was made with 105 families, local rights group say that 64 of them never agreed to the deal (9), insisting moreover to live on the land since 1982 (2), which makes them legal land owners according to Cambodian land law.

The company offered compensations between 250-1500$, but villagers rejected as this is not enough to buy a new home and land. (4)

An activist, that played a key role in farmer’s resistance, accepted after years of fight, a buyout by KDC amounting to 20,000$ compensation for the land and 2,500$ to stop protesting . The company hoped that they could stop the conflict through silencing a key activists (10), however farmer’s resistance continued.
Project Area (in hectares)522ha
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population543
Start Date01/01/1996
Company Names or State EnterprisesKDC International (KDC) from Cambodia - agro-industry
Relevant government actorsChea Kheng, wife of Minister of Energy and Mines, Suy Sem
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersADHOC 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”) 
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Property damage/arson
Public campaigns
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Refusal of compensation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
Threats to use arms
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-economic 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
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Project temporarily suspended
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Land demarcation
Development of AlternativesThe 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 as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.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 and Materials

Cambodia's land law and related regulatory frameworks
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2005 Subdecree on Economic Land Concessions (ELC) in Cambodia
[click to view]


(1) Petilla 2012. AFA Cases on Large Scale Land Acquisition in Asia. research report. (accessed 10/02/2015)
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(2) Phnom Penh Post article: "Plaintiffs called in KDC case" (accessed 10/02/2015)
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(3) Phnom Penh Post article: "small victory for villagers" (accessed 10/02/2015)
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(4) Phnom Penh Post article: "Locals block bulldozers, fence"(accessed 10/02/2015)
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(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)
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(7) United Nations Special Rapporteur on the KDC conflict (accessed 10/02/2015)
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(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)
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(10) Phnom Penh Post article "Activist takes KDC buyout" (accessed 10/02/2015)
[click to view]

Media Links

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

Other Documents

Villagers blocking a bulldozer source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/na-commission-member-visits-k-chhnang-kdc-site (accessed 12/02/2015)
[click to view]

Police beats peaceful protesters Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/peaceful-marchers-beaten (accessed 12/02/2015)
[click to view]

Burning of company effigies Source: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/after-kdc-clashes-rage-burns (accessed 12/02/2015)
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel (ICTA-UAB) / arnim.scheidel "at" gmail.com
Last update25/02/2015