Villagers Hope To See Hun Sen Over Land Dispute

More than 100 Koh Kong pro­vince villagers seeking Prime Minister Hun Sen’s intervention in a land dispute with a senior CPP official have arrived in Phnom Penh and were camped out Thurs­day in front of the National Assembly.

The group set out on foot Mon­day, planning a week-long march to the capital to seek an audience with the prime minister to find a resolution to their dispute with CPP tycoon Senator Ly Yong Phat.

However, after walking 50 km, the group boarded a truck in Koh Kong’s Kompong Seila district and arrived late Tuesday evening in the capital.

“We wanted to march, but on Tues­day the kids were so exhausted that’s why we decided to take a bus here,” said Kong Song, 41, of Trapaing Kandal village, one of three villages in Sre Ambel district’s Chikhor Leu commune involved in the dispute.

In a speech Monday, Hun Sen declared “war” on land grabbing and threatened to fire officials who have been encroaching on state land.

In the Koh Kong dispute, which began in mid-2006, rights workers claim two companies controlled by Ly Yong Phat have destroyed villagers’ crops to make way for a 20,000-hectare sugarcane plantation.

Ly Yong Phat and his representative Heng San could not be reach­ed for comment Thursday.

Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith as well as Honorary CPP President and National Assembly President Heng Samrin also could not be contacted.

Instead of all walking to Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence near Wat Phnom, the group intend to send a delegation to deliver a petition today, said An Haiya, a villager from Chikhor village.

At 7 am Wednesday, a truck with a loudspeaker passed by the group, announcing that they were unwelcome and that their security could not be ensured if they re­main­ed in the park, villager Pich Hong, 44, said.

Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath has given the group a total of $12.32, 18 bottles of soy sauce and six bottles of fish sauce, An Haiya said. But in a meeting Thursday morning, Sok Sambath asked that the group return home and leave only a few representatives behind, An Haiya added.

“I asked [Sok Sambath] to allow the villagers to stay three or four more days,” he said, adding that the villagers wanted to air their grievances as a group.

Sok Sambath declined to speak to a reporter. However, district deputy governor Pich Socheata said the group had refused a request to return home and that the authorities have not yet decided how to respond. Loud speaker announcements were made be­cause the group’s presence in the park disturbs the capital’s peace and beauty, she added.

SRP lawmaker Yim Sovann said that, by seeking out Hun Sen, the group had taken their grievances to the right place.

“It is the responsibility of the ruling party,” to help the villagers, he said.


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