PHNOM PENH —
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the government’s Anti-Corruption Unit on Thursday, demanding investigations into a variety of land grabs, forced evictions and other alleged malfeasance.
Protesters said they had marched as a last resort and that they do not trust provincial courts or officials to resolve their disputes. They also marched at the National Assembly, seeking at both sites to deliver petitions outlining their grievances.
At the center of the complaints is the corruption surrounding ongoing development projects, sanctioned by the government, that continue to increase.
No clashes were reported, a rarity since the government declared a ban on public gatherings following a violent crackdown on labor demonstrations in January.
The protesters were comprised of villagers and monks, holding banners against corruption.
Seven representatives were allowed into the Anti-Corruption Unit’s building, where they discussed their concerns with officials.
ACU officer Chhea Chanthor said afterward the agency had accepted the petitions and will hold meetings on Friday to discuss next steps.
Mom Sar Kin, one of the representatives, told reporters that officials had accepted the petitions and promised to initiate investigations.
“The main messages are the devastation of the forest caused by corrupt officials and the rich, forced evictions, and other uncountable social injustices,” she said. “All of the problems are caused by corruption.”
Nhek Sophea, a community representative from Banteay Meanchey province, said she hoped the petitions would help her and other victims of forced evictions.
“There is corruption at the provincial level,” she said. “We have come here to ask for help from the ACU. We want to see it act to find solutions for people.”
“We’ve come here because we have nowhere to go now,” said Heng San, a 70-year-old villager from Kampot province. “Our houses are burnt down, and we have no place to live. We want help from the ACU to find justice for us.”
While some protesters complained of illegal logging or land grabs, others said they were dealing with illegal fishing operations from Vietnamese vessels.
Nay Vong Da, an observer for the rights group Adhoc, said people had come here as a last resort. Adhoc will continue to monitor the cases, he said, “to see if the ACU is effective enough to find solutions for people.”