Protest Against Canadia Bank Sparks Negotiations

A peaceful protest by dozens of res­idents of Rik Reay village Tues­day morning at Canadia Bank on Street 108 was well-received by bank officials and prompted negotiations with villagers, who claim their land is being grabbed by the bank.

The hour-long protest was followed by a roundtable discussion open to media at the Community Legal Education Center, which in­volved representatives from Cana­dia Bank, private construction company Borei Otyean Bassac and the village, which is located in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district.

Rights workers and villagers said the discussions mark significant pro­gress and stand in stark contrast to several violent incidents that re­cently erupted at Rik Reay be­tween villagers and construction workers.

“Now we can say our first stage was successful…. We need further discussion, and we do need representatives from Canadia Bank and Borei Otyean Bassac to take a trip to the community to witness the hard situation there,” said Keo Nav­an, villager representative.

Phann Sithan, secretary-general of the Housing Rights Task Force, called it “a good example” that bodes well for other communities facing the threat of eviction who might be afraid to protest.

At the roundtable, Roth Kum­nith, Canadia Bank legal adviser, said he was unaware of the Rik Reay disputes or any violence at the site until protesting villagers informed him.

He denied Canadia was directly involved in development at Rik Reay—saying they only finance Borei Otyean Bassac which is developing the area—but said he is hopeful a compromise can be reached.

“I have no idea what kinds of development villagers in Rik Reay com­munity prefer. Whether they want to sell the land and move to live in another area, or whether they want on-site development,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting.

“[Wednesday], we will meet again to find out the villagers’ need,” he said, adding he would visit the site today.

Villagers denied that they initiated the violence. “Those workers used slingshot, tractors, wooden sticks and knives to hurt villagers,” said villager Heng Samphors.

“Our people are really upset when Canadia Bank and representatives from Borei Otyean Bassac claim innocence over the repeated violence,” he said, adding that he couldn’t say yet what kind of development deal would most suit the community and the first priority was to put a stop to the violence.

“We cannot speak out yet whether we need to sell the land or prefer the on-site development…. The initial need is to stop the violence,” he said.

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