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Land Rights Monitor Advises Against Violence

A man who claimed to be the victim of a land-grab told listeners on live radio Monday he would self immolate at the Independence Monument near the prime minister’s Phnom Penh residence if the prime minister could not find a resolution for him.

The man, who identified himself on the phone as “Saroeun,” from Svay Rieng province, said he had been a resistance soldier for the ruling party.

Saroeun said he lost 2 hectares of land to an unnamed three-star general and had waited 10 years for a resolution to his case. The general was powerful, Saroeun told “Hello VOA,” as a caller to a program about land rights, and no one was willing to go against him.

“If Samdech [Hun Sen] does not help me this time, I will buy 5 liters of gasoline to commit suicide at the Independence Monument, for the historical record,” Saroeun said.

Sia Phirum, the director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said as a guest on “Hello VOA” his group did not advocate such violent responses to Cambodia’s ongoing land crisis.

“This is a concern for us, as NGOs,” he said. “We always issue press releases to appeal to the government to make considerations in advance of forced eviction and make a strategy to find as much fairness as possible and get a win-win [policy] together,” Sia Phirum said.

Thousands of people have been victimized by the authorities, who have evicted them from their communities in the name of development, Sia Phirum said, noting that he was not against relocations.

“It’s normal for a country to develop, but there just should be a proper solution for the people,” he said, without elaborating.

Communities in Phnom Penh have been swept aside in neighborhoods like Dey Krahorm and Boeung Kok, as developers continue with plans for commercial and residential properties in a climate of lucrative land deals.

The displaced have found themselves living in communities remote from the center of the city, far from jobs, schools, electricity and other facilities. International donors and rights groups have called on the government to put an end to the forced evictions, which they say threatens stability.