Families visiting Phnom Penh from Koh Kong province to protest their long-running land disputes with a trio of sugarcane plantations said on Monday that they were not going home until the government helped them secure acceptable settlements.
The more than 100 farmers arrived in Phnom Penh last Tuesday to petition government agencies for help getting back the land they say was stolen from them by the plantations—one owned by Heng Huy Agriculture and two previously owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, but since bought out by a Thai firm. Short of that, the families say they want fair compensation.
Rights groups say hundreds of thousands of poor Cambodians have lost their homes or farms, or both, to such economic land concessions—large tracts of land leased out by the government to private companies for commercial farming—with little or no remuneration.
The families from Koh Kong have been fighting the sugarcane plantations for several years.
“We are absolutely not going home. We demand a transparent resolution to our land dispute. We want better compensation for the farms we have lost,” Pav Nhoeung, one of the representatives, said on Monday at a press conference at Phnom Penh’s Samakki Raingsey pagoda, where they are staying.
“Why would we go back home?’ she said. “If we go back, we will die. We are ready to die here to show the public that we have died because we starved.”
Ms. Nhoeung said there were 171 protesters in all, including several children.
The farmers have visited the National Assembly and a few ministries since arriving in Phnom Penh and say they plan to march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house near Independence Monument soon.
Government officials have made numerous pledges to resolve the disputes without making any firm commitments. The companies have denied any wrongdoing.