PHNOM PENH - It was seven years ago today that residents of Phnom Penh's Dey Krahorm, or Red Earth, neighborhood were forcibly evicted in a now infamous operation led by a development company and state security forces.
About 100 former residents submitted a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin Tuesday, calling on him to give them proper resettlement packages for their eviction.
They gathered in a demonstration before the National Assembly building in the capital, joined by protesters from other eviction sites and by members of the Association of Democrats, whose leader, Mam Sonando, who is also the owner of Beehive Radio, was sentenced to 20 years in prison last week for allegedly fomenting a secessionist movement.
The gathering underscored the myriad fronts of unrest the government is currently facing, due to land grabs, forced evictions and other rights abuses and was a further indication that those with grievances have found common cause.
Protesters wore black T-shirts and paper houses as hats and called on the government to provide them with better housing and resettlement.
One protester, Doul Chantha, a former Dey Krahorm resident, said the current government is "worse than the Khmer Rouge." "I appeal to all land victims to struggle against the Cambodian government for our lives and homes," she said.
A protester from the nearly vacated neighborhood of Boeung Kak, Soy Kolap, said she had never heard from government officials after she was evicted from her home and settled far away from the capital.
Pung Chhiv Kek, president of the rights group Licadho, which has closely followed the forced evictions, said the Cambodian government must keep in mind the poor and residents of development sites, if it is to have positive development.