Sam Rainsy, leader of his self-named party, warned on Friday that he would lead mass protests in Phnom Penh if the government does not immediately end its campaign of forced eviction, land confiscation and house removals in the capital.
Threatening to lead large numbers of disaffected villagers from the provinces into Phnom Penh, Sam Rainsy said the mass demonstrations would take place in August unless the government commits to abide by the decisions of the recently formed yet still powerless National Authority on the Resolution of Land Disputes.
“We have decided in principal to hold the mass demonstration to demand the suspension of confiscation, removals and evictions,” Sam Rainsy said.
“The [land dispute authority] only started to investigate and collect information but it does no have the right to decide [on a solution],” he said, adding that tens of thousands would join protests over such an emotive issue as land.
“The victims, the people who pity them and the people who love justice will join. It is not difficult to find victims, they are everywhere” Sam Rainsy said.
“We can’t just remove the poor from their houses and dump them in rice fields. Now it is the rainy season and it’s muddy. This is not a humane act.”
Sam Rainsy said he wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday demanding an end to the government’s forced eviction policy.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak warned that mass demonstrations in the capital would not be tolerated for very long, adding that Sam Rainsy’s threats were nothing new.
“There is no surprise,” Khieu Sopheak said.
“What Sam Rainsy does, even though there is no permission, he will still do it,” he said.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said that he worked within the law and urged Sam Rainsy to also act within the law.
Regarding evictions, Pa Socheatvong said, “I don’t know what [Sam Rainsy] is talking about. I work according to the available law.”
Hoeun Sovann, a resident of the Group 78 community in Tonle Bassac commune—where some 130 families are facing eviction on Monday—said he wasn’t sure of Sam Rainsy’s motives.
“We will wait and see,” Hoeun Sovann said.