About 40 people burned tires Thursday to protest a wealthy businessman’s decision to build a concrete gate in the middle of a busy thoroughfare in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.
The villagers said tycoon Khun Sear’s construction of a 1.5-meter-wide gate in the road was dangerous, as it left only 3.5 meters for cars to pass along the new Samdech Techo Hun Sen Boulevard.
“The commune authorities agreed to keep the road five meters wide, so why did they allow the company to build a concrete gate on the villagers’ road?” village representative Chea Sitha asked.
“The road is so small that traffic will make it difficult for fire trucks and ambulances to reach the road,” added protester Tech Muy.
The 40 protesters said they would file a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cabinet and stage another demonstration in front of the prime minister’s house.
Yim Leang, a business partner of Khun Sear, said that the land in question overlapped with Hun Sen Boulevard, but had belonged to Mr. Sear long before the road was widened.
“I want to ask you: If someone asked to cut your newspaper’s land, would you agree?” he asked a reporter.
Mr. Leang, who is also the commander of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit and a son of Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Li, referred further questions on the matter to the Chak Angre Leu commune chief, who he said was a “representative of the company.”
The commune chief, Keo Savoeun, clarified that his role was simply to “coordinate between both sides” of the dispute. But he said Mr. Sear was firmly in the right as he had a title for the area where he was building the wall.
“I have cooperated with Oknha Khun Sear’s representatives many times to talk about the road, but the oknha is only leaving 3.5 meters,” he said, referring to Mr. Sear by an honorific given to wealthy businessmen.
Mr. Savoeun added that only a minority of families who were unhappy with the road’s width.
“The villagers never protested before, but they started protesting when the tycoon decided to build a concrete gate on the road,” he said.