Villagers Stage Protest Outside WFP Office

About 400 villagers from Kan­dal province protesting food shortages traveled on Monday to the Phnom Penh offices of the World Food Program, the UN food distribution body now em­broiled in a corruption scandal.

The villagers squatted in hard rain outside the WFP gates on Street 63 for about one half hour. Many of the participants were women carrying infants wrapped in kramas or plastic bags to shield them from the rain.

All had traveled from Kraing Yov commune, an area designated by Prime Minister Hun Sen as a rural development zone.

“I have no rice, I have no mo­ney, because of a drought for three years,” said Loth Roeun, 35, a mother of six who cradled her

3-month-old girl.

Nuth Rumduol and Chrea So­chin­da, two Sam Rainsy Party par­liamentarians who helped organize the villagers’ trip from Sa’ang district, addressed them in the rain outside the gates.

“The government doesn’t take care of you. But we, the Sam Rainsy Party, try to help the poor peo­ple. So if you vote for the wrong people, you will get ano­ther five years of poverty, and it will keep getting worse and worse,” Chrea Sochinda said.

The protest marked the second time in less than a month that the villagers have come to WFP’s of­fices in an apparent attempt by the opposition to underscore what it says is worsening poverty compounded by cor­rup­tion.

WFP and government officials are in negotiations over a recent scan­dal that saw the diversion of thousands of tons of rice from needy villagers to private sale for profit. WFP has terminated seven em­ployees linked to the fraud and are negotiating with the government over compensation.

The government’s anti-corruption task force, chaired by Ca­bi­net Minister Sok An, has yet to take any disciplinary ac­tion.

Rraj Sa­ravanamuttu, WFP’s depu­ty di­rec­tor in Cambodia, declined comment on the protest.

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