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Mondolkiri Minorities to Protest Land Grab

The rights group Adhoc will lead a demonstration on the behalf of thousands of ethnic minorities who blame government officials and businessmen for the alleged theft of land in Mondolkiri province.

More than 10,000 hectares of land have been taken in at least 15 different cases, leading to the arrests of at least two men, the group said.

Pen Bunna, an Adhoc coordinator in Mondolkiri, told VOA Khmer that the demonstration, to be held May 20, will include 200 participants representing the victims of alleged land theft.

The demonstrators plan “to ask the government for help in retaking their community and state land,” he said.

“Now the powerful men and businessmen are happy for their land grabbing, but the minorities are suffering from the lose of their land,” he said. “As the government carries out the law to retake the minority and state land, the powerful men and businessmen will see suffering replacing that satisfaction.”

Chhouk Savath, 48, a representative of hill tribesmen living in O’Chum village, in Mondolkiri’s O’Chum district, called the demonstration “a very important sign” in reflecting the need for a resolution to the crisis.

“I want to participate in the demonstration against the powerful men who pressured us into selling our land to them and then cut most of the forest,” Chhouk Savath said. “The minorities have no land to crop and to hunt. I and my fellow minorities who don’t understand the law suffer from land-grabbing.”

Mondolkiri Governor Moung Poy declined to comment on the demonstration, saying Friday he had not received a request from the protesters.