Dressed in CPP hats and T-shirts and holding pictures of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany, about 240 villagers from Koh Kong province yesterday held a demonstration near the premier’s house to complain about the lack of compensation after the loss of their land to an agricultural concession.
By day’s end, their demonstration technique was proven successful, with Mr Hun Sen personally requesting that the Koh Kong provincial governor step in to settle the dispute.
The villagers, from Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts, gathered in a park opposite the capital’s Wat Botum pagoda yesterday morning, armed with petitions signed by villagers who will be affected by a 36,000 hectare land concession granted to the Union Development Group, a Chinese company.
Villagers interviewed yesterday said they were only seeking “reasonable” compensation, claiming that they had only been offered $300, or less, for each hectare of their land lost to the Chinese firm.
“We voted for the CPP and we wear CPP outfits to show Samdech Hun Sen that we are CPP supporters,” said Hon Noeurn, a 30-year-old villager from Kiri Sakor district.
Another villager from Kiri Sakor, Mel Sokunthy, said the demonstrators had worn the CPP attire to ensure that authorities recognized that they were not supporters of opposition parties.
“We want Samdech helping us,” he said.
The demonstrators were prevented from marching toward Mr Hun Sen’s house by about 40 Daun Penh district police officers who pushed the crowd back as they chanted, “Bravo, Samdech Hun Sen! Please help us. Only Samdech can help us.”
After the villagers agreed to wait in the park, Mr Hun Sen’s deputy cabinet chief Lim Leang Se arrived and accepted their petitions on behalf of the prime minister.
At about 5 pm, officials from Mr Hun Sen’s cabinet arrived back at the park and presented a letter to the villagers, stating that the “Prime Minister hands over the issue to His Excellency, the provincial governor for settlement.”
According to Am Sam Ath, the land rights monitor for local rights group Licadho, the 36,000 hectare land concession was granted in November 2008 and affects villagers from four communes in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.
“The law allows only 10,000 hectare land concessions, but more than 10,000 hectares means the law has already been violated,” Mr Sam Ath said.