Despite government efforts this week to stop land protesters from flooding into the capital to seek help from national-level authorities, dozens of aggrieved villagers involved in land disputes protested once again in Phnom Penh on Friday.
One group of protesters from multiple provinces were blockaded inside a Phnom Penh pagoda and prevented from marching to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house. A second group of mostly disabled soldiers managed to make it to Wat Botum park, near Mr. Hun Sen’s mansion in the center of the city, and deliver a petition to his cabinet.
The first group—about 70 people who say they have lost land in Banteay Meanchey, Pailin and Battambang provinces—planned to march from their temporary home base at Wat Chas in Chroy Changva district to ask for assistance at Mr. Hun Sen’s house.
However, before they could leave the pagoda on Friday morning, scores of riot police and district security guards wielding steel batons arrived and blocked them from leaving. A scuffle broke out, leading to the brief detention of four women protesters from the Boeng Kak community who had planned to join the march.
“We didn’t arrest those women. We just had to get them away to avoid disturbing public order,” said Chroy Changva police chief Thorng Vutha. “The security guards did not use violence.”
About 11 a.m., Chroy Changva district governor Khlaing Huot told the protesters inside the pagoda that he would send officials on Saturday to note individual grievances that would then be presented to Mr. Hun Sen.
At Wat Botum park, about 50 former Khmer Rouge soldiers, many of them disabled, rallied for the prime minister to intervene in their land dispute in Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district.
Nun Ly, a 48-year-old who said he lost his right leg while fighting the Vietnamese Army in 1988, said that land that the prime minister had set aside for the soldiers in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold was now being bought up by a Thai company.
“Authorities, police and military police have threatened to evict us because they claim the land has been sold to a Thai company,” Mr. Ly said.
Kong Chamroeun, a representative of the prime minister’s cabinet, accepted a petition from the retired soldiers and vowed to find a solution for them.