Farmers Protest in Kompong Thom Against Farming Ban

Around 100 farmers in Kompong Thom province gathered outside the provincial government office Friday, demanding that the Tonle Sap Authority lift a ban on farming in floodplains and flooded forests around the lake, officials and a villager said yesterday.

According to a letter dated June 21 and obtained Friday, Water Resource Minister and Tonle Sap Authority Chairman Lim Kean Hor informed provincial governor Chhu Chhorn that famers living in certain sections around the Tonle Sap lake must stop farming and demolish their reservoirs.

The letter, obtained Friday, divided areas around the lake into three zones: zone one refers to areas where farming is allowed; zone two refers to areas where development projects are allowed; and zone three refers to areas where neither farming nor development are allowed.

For zone one, a national task force, consisting of government, police and Tonle Sap Authority officials, “would like to give three days for those owners to adjust their reservoirs,” Mr Kean Hor wrote in the letter.

“From June 25…if the reservoir owners continue to defy this directive of demolition, the task force will take action and then the owners would no longer be allowed to farm in that area.”

Khem Kheang, 62, a farmer from Sung Sen City, said that he and the other villagers were not protesting against destroying their reservoirs, but for the right to continue farming.

“We have been farming on this land for three regimes already. Why does the government just ban us this now?” he asked.

Mr Chhorn, the provincial governor, said by telephone yesterday that he had assigned government experts to meet with the protesting villagers.

“It is not a matter between them, but it is the matter of technical experts,” he said before declining to comment further.

Mr Kean Hor could not be reached for comment.

Stung Sen City police chief Nhem Chhunly said that as of Friday evening the protesters were still gathering peacefully outside the provincial government office.



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