PHNOM PENH - A housing rights protest entered its second day Tuesday, with activists demonstrating in front of the prime minister’s house to demand titles to land lost to developers in the capital.
Activists butted up against a line of shielded riot police as they demanded a resolution to a longstanding land dispute with a private development firm.
Demonstrators want Prime Minister Hun Sen to make good on a promise to set aside land for them in a dispute at the Boeung Kak lake neighborhood, promises they say have been undermined by local authorities and have left some 60 families homeless.
Tuesday marked the second day of demonstrations, following violent clashes with police on Monday. In Monday’s violence, a protester said she miscarried after she was struck in the abdomen by police.
Hun Sen in 2011 ordered that more than 12 hectares of land be set aside for families displaced in the Boeung Kak development scheme, which saw the evictions of thousands of families and the filling of the lake. Activists say that land has not been fairly distributed.
Activist Tep Vanny told VOA Khmer Tuesday that the local authorities of Phnom Penh and officials at the Shukaku, Inc., development company have not respected the prime minister’s orders. Tuesday’s demonstration was to call for them to abide by the contract, she said.
“I feel that now there is no government or institutions to be trusted, because when we ask them for help, they always ignore us, while the court listens to only the corrupt officials and even puts more pressure on us,” she said. “Also, the agreement signed by the prime minister has had no effect, so that means the authorities and companies look down on him.”
The ongoing demonstrations by activists from Boeung Kak, as well as the Borei Keila neighborhood, have proved vexing for local authorities. The city’s new governor, Pa Socheatvong, has vowed to resolve the remaining land disputes in the capital ahead of the July 28 elections. But this week’s protests make those promises appear increasingly unlikely.
City officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Sia Phirum, head of the Housing Rights Task Force, said the unresolved housing conflicts, some of which have been ongoing since 2008, could affect the upcoming elections.
“If the authorities and companies do not follow decisions signed by the prime minister, I think the protests from Beoung Kak Lake and Borei Keila communities can affect the numbers of votes in favor of the ruling party,” he said.