Hungry Farmers Seek Rice, Land Reforms

Some 300 villagers from Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kompong Cham and Banteay Meanchey provinces rallied in front of the National Assembly Wednesday to demand land reform.

The hungry protesters began arriving in Phnom Penh three or four days ago to request a gift of rice from King Norodom Si­hanouk, who frequently gives rice to hungry Cam­bodians.

Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy then led the demonstrators to the offices of the World Bank, where, using a loudspeaker, he shouted demands for land reform.

Chea Soary, 35, from Svay Rieng said that he came to Phnom Penh to ask the King for rice. “Be­­cause of flooding and droughts, we have nothing to eat,” he said

On Chhet, 55, also from Svay Rieng, echoed those sentiments.

“We have had three years of flooding, and then in the dry season we have not had enough water to plant rice,” On Chhet said.

According to a prepared statement addressed to World Bank President James Wolfen­sohn, 952 “hungry farmers,” victims of land grabs, floods, droughts, deforestation and government mismanagement, re­quested that the World Bank im­ple­ment land re­form and land redistribution initiatives.

The protesters, mostly farmers, complained in their petition of unfair distribution of land.

“1,000 persons (representing less than 0.01 percent of the population) own or control 50 percent of the land,” the statement said.

The protesters came to the World Bank to make sure that “land reform is very high on their agenda,” Sam Rainsy said.

Also, “cases of land grabbing are very serious, so I want to bring it to their attention.”

Sam Rainsy said he hopes to remind the donor community through the protest that the land laws adopted last year have not led to any concrete measures.

(Additional reporting by David Shaftel)


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