Landless farmers and market vendors without stalls gathered at a Sam Rainsy Party-sponsored news conference at the National Assembly Tuesday to highlight recent actions that the opposition party termed abuses by local government authorities.
Tang Phanith, a market vendor in Kompong Thom, said the provincial government’s recent order to close the old market and move vendors into the newly built Stung Sen market means that he can no longer make a living. He said the $200 per square meter price for a new stall is impossible for him to pay.
“I demand that the governor set up a committee to negotiate the prices of the stalls,” he said. “Now people aren’t selling at the new market, but instead are setting up on sidewalks. But even police try to stop that too.”
Two farmers from Chamkar Leu district in Kompong Cham told how police, on behalf of a rich businessman, kicked them off their small plots in 1998.
“The police told 18 families that they must leave, and then they built a fence around the property,” said Loung Chhun, 51.
Hor Mengse, 38, said the families had lived on the land since 1988 and had legal title to it.
“So why did they accuse me of being a squatter?” he asked. “When I told the police that I had no place to live, the officials told me that I could live anywhere, but not there.”
Sam Rainsy suggested the government set up a people’s forum in December, as set out in the constitution, so that other victims of government abuses can make their grievances known to the other government officials.
Articles 128, 129 and 130 of the 1993 Constitution provide for a people’s forum to meet once a year in early December to “enable the people to be directly informed on various matters of national interest and to raise issues and requests” for the government and the National Assembly to address.