R’kiri Solidarity Groups Denied Opportunity for Demonstration

Acting Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Chey Sayoeun on Tues­day shot down a request by leaders of the province’s rubber plantation solidarity groups to protest the dissolution of the former worker collectives.

Solidarity group chiefs met Monday and agreed to stage what looks to be a last gasp protest of over 200 people on Jan 10 against government plans to relinquish their power over 34 state-owned plantations.

“On behalf of the provincial authority that has examined the request, I would like to inform that [I] don’t give permission according to the request [to protest],” Chey Sayoeun wrote in a letter to the solidarity groups received Wednesday.

The remnants of worker collectives from the communist 1980s, the solidarity groups were ordered by the Ministry of Agriculture in 2007 to disband following accusations that group leaders were cheating plantation workers.

Chey Sayoeun maintained in his Tuesday letter that the solidarity groups must comply with the 2007 order, which was backed by the Council of Ministers in Sep­tember, and disband.

Solidarity groups representative Chhe Chan said by telephone Wednesday that he and others would protest despite Chey Say­oeun’s order not to, but he de­clined to say when.

“The acting governor can’t refuse without giving us solutions,” Chhe Chan said. “Whenever there is exploitation, there must be a revolt,” he added.

However, Chey Sayoeun said by telephone that authorities have offered solutions to the solidarity groups, including jobs at the rubber plantations after the solidarity groups are disbanded.

“We’ll give them employment, but they don’t accept,” Chey Say­oeun said, adding that the government will take measures against the groups if they demonstrate.

“We are not afraid to stop the demonstration,” he said. “We want to give them chances to behave. This time we will arrest them.”

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