Some of the 200 villagers taking part in a 300-km protest march from Battambang province to Phnom Penh over an alleged land-grab have turned back, government officials said Monday.
The marchers, which include about 20 children, started walking Friday in the hope of drawing the attention of Prime Minister Hun Sen to their claim that land was taken from them in Bavel district’s Lvea and Khnach Romeas communes, as well as Kors Kralor district’s Preah Phos commune.
About 60 of the marching villagers decided to end their trek in Pursat province’s Krakor district—almost halfway to Phnom Penh—said Pol Lim, Interior Ministry inspector general.
Pol Lim said he met marchers Monday afternoon and persuaded some to board four mini-buses that were traveling back to Battambang province.
“Some of them did not return because they have small children,” Pol Lim said, noting it was about 4 pm when the mini-buses started their journey, so some villagers considered it too late to travel with children. Those who stayed behind will spend the night in Ansa Chambok pagoda, he said.
“We hope to find them a solution tomorrow,” Pol Lim said, adding that he wants to visit the disputed land.
“We could not listen only to one side and forget one side,” he said.
Seang Suthorng, deputy Battambang provincial governor, said he will also speak to the villagers at Ansa Chambok pagoda.
“We just want them to return back home first,” he said. “Then we will look into the case,” he added.
Serng Mony, a 39-year-old marcher, was among those who did not board the mini-buses.
“I do not know if anyone besides [Hun Sen] could help, but they come to find a solution for us,” he said. “We have to follow them.”