The three-minute television spot opens on a cheerful village scene. Smiling children traipse along a dirt road while adults, chatting about their good harvest, tend the fields. But the mood quickly darkens as news of an impending eviction circulates.
“Where should we go? We have been living here with happiness and good land. We have a school and a hospital and can plant crops very well,” one villager laments.
Another cries out that villagers hold land titles and that eviction is unlawful.
The television slot—an attempt to educate villagers about land rights and urge officials to pay required compensation for evictions—has been airing on television and radio since Jan 16.
“We want powerful people to change their attitudes and use a gentle and soft policy. Stop intimidating villagers or threatening to sue without paying any compensation,” said Thy Bunthoeun, spokesman for Community Legal Education Center’s Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project, which developed and paid for the broadcasts.
The spots have appeared on TVK and TV5 and radio stations FM 95, FM 102, FM 103 and FM 105—and are similar to those aired late last year, that focused on the land dispute at Koh Pich—the disputed island opposite the NagaCorp Casino.
“It is basic information encouraging our people to get proper compensation to move to a new location,” said So Sovann, a 51-year-old villager facing eviction from his home near the fence surrounding Phnom Penh International Airport.
“Particularly, the spot strongly supports Samdech [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s speech in which he said rich and powerful officials cannot grab our land, and that we must receive acceptable compensation,” he added.
“Otherwise, poverty will spread widely to all people in towns and remote areas.”
Prak Somaly, 46, who faces eviction from her home near Preah Monivong Hospital, said she appreciated the information but was unsure whether she could put it to use.
“The spot is really excellent,” she said, “but I fear the actual implementation from those powerful officials would not come true.”