Poipet Villagers To March For Land Rights

After two months of camping in front of the National Ass­em­bly in poor living conditions made worse by floods, Poipet villagers are planning to march Thursday to the Council of Minis­ters in hopes of getting their land back.

The hundreds of villagers from Banteay Meanchey province say marching is their last resort, as they have seen no prospects for help by sitting in front of the National Assembly.

“We would like to meet Prime Minister Hun Sen and ask him to help solve our problem,” said Sok San, one of the protesters. “There is nobody but him who is able to solve our dispute.”

The protesters sent a letter Monday to Phnom Penh Gover­nor Chea Sophara, who said he would allow them to march.

As many as 350 villagers have been protesting in front of the National Assembly building during working hours, and spending nights camped in the wet and muddy riverside area near the Hun Sen amusement park.

More than 800 families were moved in June off 16 parcels of land that included the area of the state-owned train station. Protest­ers say they were unfairly evicted and resettled in the new, heavily mined village of Prey Kup.

Some protesters charge the government took their land for future casino development. Gov­ern­ment officials say the protesters did not own the land, and deny it will be used for casinos.

Local authorities say the land belongs to the government. They want to use part of it for the Asean railroad that is to link Thailand to Sisophon, the provincial capital.

Sar Chamrong, O’Chrou district chief, said satisfying the protesters is beyond his ability because the provincial court ordered the villagers to move.

The protesters say they need compensation money now, and better land they can live on later.

According to government and National Assembly officials, there has been serious discussion about the problem, but no solution could legally be worked out.

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh re­cently ordered aides and Funcin­pec and CPP parliamentarians to look at the case. They also ack­now­ledged the legality of the eviction by the court and the resettlement ordered by local authorities. Vong Darin, the Prince’s assistant in charge of land disputes, said only the King has the constitutional right to intervene.




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