Hundreds of families from Banteay Meanchey and Pursat provinces
protested Monday against unfair distribution of millions of dollars in emergency food aid.
“It is hurtful when we are the real poor and we cannot get
rice aid,” said Prak Chuop, a villager in Bantey Meanchey, who joined other
protesters in front of provincial headquarters.
Local authorities have been handing out rice, rice seed, fertilizer, in both provinces since Oct. 30,
part of a $40 million aid package meant to offset the costs of inflation.
The ADB provided $35 million, with the government matching $5 million.
But villagers now say they aid is not reaching the most
“When I saw [the family of the village chief] going in a group, I asked them where they were going. They said, ‘To a meeting,’ but when
they came back, they carried between six and 10 bags of rice,” said Ok Nonn, a
protester from Pursat, where around 200 villager sat in protest at the
headquarters of Thnoth Chum commune, Krakor district. “But we were not told.”
The ADB expects to distribute 120,000 tons of milled rice to
340,000 people in 200 communes for the emergency aid.
Under the ADB plan, each member of a family should
receive one 35-kilogram bag of rice, but monitors for the rights group Adhoc
said they received complaints from more than 200 villagers in Banteay Meanchey of
“Some families received only 35 kilograms of rice [total], and some
others received only 30 cans of rice,” said Sum Chankea, provincial coordinator
of Adhoc in Banteay Meanchey. Thirty cans make about 7 kilograms of rice.
Long Piseth, project officer of the ADB, said he recognized
the possibility of the problem. The emergency assistance was prepared in only
three weeks, he said. The ADB has received 33 complaints on its hotline since the
beginning of distribution, he said.
The government is responsible for unfair distribution, but the ADB will also consider how it can help the poor who missed the
emergency aid, Long Piseth said.
“If we run out of emergency rice, we will take action at the
end of distribution, when we have received other reports from [our] NGO
monitors,” he said.
For those who miss the emergency rice, the ADB could provide
rice under its “food-for-work” program or sell rice seeds at low cost, Long
Vorng Sandap, deputy secretary-general for the Ministry of
Finance, who is in charge of the aid distribution, said Monday that the poorest
people would be ensured rice under the food-for-work program.
“But it is too early to predict our actions against
authorities, because the program is not finished yet,” he said.