PHNOM PENH, 23 August, (Khmer Times) – About 100 protesters huddled on buses from Ponhea Leu in Kandal province and made their way to Phnom Penh on Saturday to present a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The issue was, once again, land disputes.
The old and young – who ranged in age from young children to wrinkle-faced grandparents – banded together and peacefully walked down Street 7 to gather at the Wat Botum park. The atmosphere was one of determination and carried a sense of people who had been wronged. The protesters refrained from shouting slogans or interacting with police or passers-by.
The protest signs spelled out their grievance with land dealer Mrs. Lim Kea – who is allegedly trying to force them from their land – according to an interpreter who asked to remain anonymous.
The spokespeople at the rally called on the prime minister to intervene with their dispute as the local authorities in Kandal province are not responding to their petitions.
The dispute dates back to 2008, after the land was on-sold to wine company SKD by the land dealer. Prime Minister Hun Sen subsequently ordered that the land be returned to the villagers, however Mrs. Lim Kea maintains the villagers have been adequately compensated, though this is hotly disputed by the protesters.
Unlike the land dispute of Monday 18 August, there was a noticeable absence of police. Rather than full riot gear, the brown-uniformed police officers lingered across the street or sat under a nearby tree.
The circular repeating pattern is that farmers from the provinces come to petition the prime minister, only to be told to deal with the local authorities who refuse to address their concerns.