Monk Says He Was Warned Not To Speak Out

Residents of Kampot province’s Chhuk district demonstrated on   Thurs­­day in support of a monk who was warned by police for speaking out against a 9,800-hectare land concession that will displace 1,020 families in five villages in the district’s Tra­­paing Klaing commune, a rights worker said.

Sao Veasna, chief monk of Phnom Chambok pagoda, said he was warned by district authorities not to encourage the villagers to pro­test against the concession.

“I was warned that I must not in­cite villagers to protest,” Sao Veasna said. “I did not incite them to fight against the company, but I was with them [during the protest],” he said.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights investigator Chhim Savuth said the villagers have vowed to keep protesting against the concession, because it affects 5,100 hec­tares of land belonging to five villages.

Chan Sothea, the owner of World Christa, which was granted the concession, denied that villagers’ land was affected and said her firm will continue to clear land for a sugar cane plantation. The company has a 70-year contract with the government and plans to invest millions, she said.

“Only bad people urge villagers to protest,” Chan Sothea said. “We in­vest here because we want to bring work for people and to develop this area. I have tried to call investors from overseas to invest here, but when people protested against us, they were disappointed. How can they make business in Cambodia?”                         Kampot’s deputy prov­incial governor, Choup Sopheak, pledged Wednesday that the concession would not encroach on villagers’ land.

“I would like to guaranteed that if it affects peoples’ land, it will be given back,” he said.

 

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