Villagers Enlist Buddha in Struggle for Land

Hoping the power of Buddha will help get their land back, more than 300 victims of land disputes gathered in the park in front of Phnom Penh’s Botum pagoda on Monday morning, where 117 Buddhist monks presided over a blessing ceremony for the landless villagers.

The villagers, from four prov­inces, have camped in the park since late December hoping their continued presence in the capital will be noticed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who they believe has the power to restore their lost land.

“We are Buddhist so I hope to­day’s ceremony can lobby top government leaders to solve the land dispute for us,” said Sun Kap, 35. He has lived in the park since Dec­ember; he and some 3,500 other villagers were kicked off land in Od­dar Meanchey province’s Anlong Veng district.

“The blessing could remind those soldiers to return land to poor vil­lagers and to stop grabbing land,” he said.

The ceremony was held after villagers camping in the park dream­ed of being visited by a holy man dressed in white who advised that the key to success in their struggle was for villagers to organize monks’ blessings, said Mok Vanthoeurn, 44, from Kompong Speu province’s Oral district.

“My dream was very real and other villagers also have similar dreams as I, which is why we organized this ceremony,” Mok Van­thoeurn said.

“We will win over this disputed land because Samdech Hun Sen has never supported powerful officials who grab our land,” he said.

Lighting incense sticks and making offerings of food and money to the monks, villagers said the ceremony could stop the powerful from abusing the weak in Cambodia.

“This Buddhist ceremony will remind those high-ranking soldiers and other powerful officials to un­derstand that they are hurting poor villagers,” said Tith Sophat, 43, from Battambang province.

“Villagers will not vote for them in the next election. It seems that we give them the power to grab our land,” he said.




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