Land Protestors Rally Outside K Chhnang Provincial Offices

About 100 villagers protested for a third day yesterday at the Kom­pong Chhnang provincial government headquarters over their treatment in a long-running land dispute involving the wife of Min­ister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.

Two people from the disputed land in Kompong Tralach district’s Ta Ches commune have been jailed since the competing claims to 145 hectares gained momentum in 2007 pitting 64 rural families against a company owned by the minister’s wife, Chea Kheng.

“We are their children, but the provincial governors, who are our parents, did not show themselves before us,” protesting villager Pheng Rom said yesterday by telephone from the protest site. “Now we are facing food shortages…as we have been banned from cultivating on the land for years,” he said.

Police have warned the land protests to clear off by today, said fellow protestors Kruoy Veng, 38.

“Police came twice [yesterday] asking us to move our tractors and to stop assembling in front of the governor’s hall,” he said.

The protestors are calling on Provincial Governor Touch Marin to intervene in their dispute and, while the ownership of the land is still in the hands of the court, to allow them to plant crops on the land this coming sewing season.

Mr Marin declined to comment yester­day saying he was busy in a meeting.

Chief of the provincial penal po­lice Chim Bunthoeun said that he knew nothing about the dispute but that the villagers have been or­dered to disperse.

“The protestors have been or­dered to move back home to their commune,” he said.

Ms Kheng’s lawyer, Phat Pao Sieng, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Late last month, Mr Pao Sieng said the villagers had no legal documentation to prove their claim, unlike his client who has documents proving ownership of a total of 622 hectares in Ta Ches commune.

Local rights group Adhoc said the villagers have received no support from officials in their dispute with the minister’s wife and that many are now food insecure are a result of the ban on farming the disputed land.

“The villagers only want to farm on the land for this coming rainy season because they don’t have stocks of rice since they were totally banned from farming last year,” Mr Soveth said.


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