More than 500 villagers protested at a kindergarten in Phnom Penh on Thursday after workers began constructing a brick wall through its grounds in order to demarcate the land for commercial sale.
The villagers began to protest on Wednesday but were placated by local authorities, who assured them the situation would be resolved and a land title would be issued soon for the Tuol Tachan kindergarten school.
“We protested again because the authorities promised to give the land title for the school today, but they did not keep their promise,” said Im Sophea, 45. “We are strongly opposed to the sale or swap of this land because all of us want to keep this school for the young generations.”
“We think that the authorities will sell this land the same as before if all of us did not protest this time,” she said, adding that a private dwelling now stood on a 15-meter-wide section of the land.
Deputy chief in Meanchey district’s Prek Eng commune, Khom Sokha, on Wednesday said he had little knowledge of why construction workers had begun laying bricks that bisect the remaining 22- by 59-meter chunk of land in half.
“This land was sold but I did not know for what price because this is a secret affair of the upper level,” Mr. Sokha said by telephone while meeting with protesters.
“I understand that villagers will not agree if the upper level offered this land to someone,” he said, adding that his office on Wednesday ordered workers to cease construction as he sought more information from the municipal education department.
When contacted Wednesday, Chea Cheat, director of the Phnom Penh municipal education department, denied that the land had been sold and said the district education authority had planned to build a village office there but that the land would now be given back to the school.
“The accusation [of selling the land] is not true because this is a public school, and we keep it for children to study, but I request for [the issue] not to be published because it [could create] a poisonous atmosphere,” he said.