Hungry Protesters Get Rice, Return Home

More than 300 families who came to Phnom Penh because of food shortages in their native provinces left the capital Thurs­day after receiving donations of rice and money from the Royal Palace.

Each adult received 25 kg of rice and about $2.50 at Nirouth pagoda, close to Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampou market and near the road to Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces, where most of the families are from. After handing out the donations, palace officials told the villagers to go home and most of them complied.

Nuon Sok, 35, came to Phnom Penh with 50 other villagers from Svay Rieng’s Svay Chrum district. She did not go home with her other villagers after receiving aid, but is planning to leave Phnom Penh today.

“The palace told us to go back home, and we agreed because we don’t want to stay here either,” said Nuon Sok, who has been in Phnom Penh for two weeks. “We just came here because we didn’t have enough to eat.”

More than 1,200 rural residents began arriving in Phnom Penh and stayed in front of the Na­tional Assembly a few weeks ago after their food and money ran out.

Last year floods destroyed rice crops, while this year not enough rain has fallen to have a good harvest, villagers said. They also asked the National Assembly and other government officials for help, but received no reply.

Kong Som Ol, a Royal Palace official, said Thursday that some of the villagers are not so poor and have an ability to make a living. He added that palace workers would go directly to the native village of others who were considered to be very poor.

“A number of those people have better living conditions and can get by,” he said.

Kim Phorn, 42, and at least 150 others didn’t receive aid because their names weren’t on a registration list used to distribute donations. She came here with 85 villagers from Svay Chhum district and she says she will stay until someone helps her.

She disputed Kong Som Ol’s comments, saying if she had money, she would have never come to Phnom Penh.

“If I have money, why would I stay out here without a mosquito net,” said Kim Phorn, the mother of seven children. “The government helps some people but it doesn’t help me.”


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