A group of amateur actors who have been personally affected by land grabbing debuted a new play on Saturday, which they hope will help others to avoid a similar fate.
“Don’t Grab My Land” is the story of a millionaire who hears about the high price of real estate and conspires to steal the land of his poorer neighbors by moving the boundary markers on their property.
It is based on testimonies given by villagers from Dey Krahom village 15 in Phnom Penh who were forcibly evicted from their land and moved to an area on the outskirts of the city earlier this year and others from Boeng Kak lake community who are currently facing eviction.
Nine villagers from both communities make up the cast. Around 40 spectators attended the Saturday performance at the floating offices on Sisowath Quay used by the group “Womyn’s Agenda for Change.”
The play criticizes the rich and powerful people who grab land, said Lay Poch of the Sovanna Phum Theater group, who wrote and directed the play after interviewing the villagers about their experiences.
“At first people did not want to participate because they were afraid for their security, but they relented when I explained that it was not attacking anyone specifically,” Lay Poch said.
One 49-year-old woman who acts in “Don’t Grab My Land,” said that she had taken part because she wanted society to know that there was no justice for the poor when it comes to land issues.
The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said that police beat her after she protested her eviction from Dey Krahom in September.
“The rich had the money to evict us,” she added. “They did not care how bad a situation we would face.”
The play is about building awareness of land grabbing and the ways people can protect themselves, said Abdul Rashid Khatri, an advisor for the NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, who organized the project.
“People are more willing to express their concerns through this medium as it is a softer way of getting their concerns across,” he said.