More than 500 farmers from Prey Veng, Svay Rieng and Kompong Speu provinces have been in Phnom Penh for about five days to ask the government to help them through the season’s drought and to return land they say was stolen from them.
The farmers have been sleeping in the park across from the National Assembly building and in front of Sam Rainsy Party headquarters. They said they have not received any food assistance yet.
Monday afternoon, opposition leader Sam Rainsy led the demonstrators to World Bank headquarters to urge the organization to pressure the government into helping the poor.
Villagers from Svay Rieng and Kompong Speu provinces said they faced serious drought. Sek Sany, 41, said there had been no rain for two years in Svay Chrum district, Svay Rieng province.
“I am a daughter of the King and Queen—why don’t they help me?” she said.
King Norodom Sihanouk has begun discouraging the tradition of provincial villagers traveling to the Royal Palace ask for food. Last year, villagers waited weeks for donations and were urged to return home.
The King later claimed he had never turned anyone away.
Forty-eight families from Peam Chor district, Prey Veng, claimed officials sold 58 hectares of their land to Vietnamese.
“I came here to ask the government to give back the land,” said villager Chem Born, 51.
With so little land available, more than half the district’s families have come to Phnom Penh looking for work, leaving only 48 families left, Van Roth, 41, said.
Prey Veng Deputy Governor Chay Sareth speculated that some “lazy” villagers had rented or sold their land to the Vietnamese and now want it back. He said the protesters might have been incited by politicians to come demonstrate in the capital.