Landless Demand Gov’t Action

More than 1,900 people pro­tested in front of the National Assembly Tuesday, demanding the government help them recover land they say was lost during the chaos that followed the de­mise of the Pol Pot regime and the Vietnamese invasion two de­cades ago.

“I am protesting to get land back for the children,” said Kong Num, 55, of Dong commune in Svay Rieng province. “I want justice for all Cambodians who are vic­tims of land confiscation.”

Land disputes between border-dwelling Cambodians and Viet­nam have been ongoing since 1979, and homeless villagers from the countryside are a regular site at the National Assembly. But Tuesday’s demonstration was the largest in months.

“Because I have no land to farm, I am here to ask for some rice and food to temporarily con­tin­ue living,” said Lao Vey, 38, a Dong commune resident.

Some observers have warned instability could erupt because of landlessness and the large number of land disputes and un­marked border areas throughout the country.

“Most people in this commune are facing landlessness,” Lao Vey said. “We are getting poorer and poorer.”

Khieu Samoth, also of Dong commune, said he has seen his land shrink by 95 percent be­cause of land grabbing and erosion. He urged the government to negotiate a settlement with Vietnam over the local border demarcation.

 

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