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.