PHNOM PENH —
Some 100 demonstrators gathered in Koh Kong province this week to continue their decade-long opposition to displacement by a sugarcane plantation firm owned by a ruling party senator.
The protesters have submitted numerous petitions to the authorities and foreign institutions since December without receiving a response, they say.
Phav Nhoeung, a representative of the group from Sre Ambel district in Koh Kong, said that the company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, had expropriated the land in 2006.
“The authorities have lied to us again and again,” she said. “But so far nothing has been resolved.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office has, belatedly, responded to their requests, she added, by issuing a letter to the protesters suggesting they contact the Ministry of Land Management.
Earlier this week Minister of Environment Say Sam Al claimed that all land disputes in the country had been solved.
The protesters are engaged in the dispute over a 782-hectare patch of land that was engulfed by the plantation when it was granted a lease in 2006.
Seng Lot, a land management ministry spokesman, could not be reached.
Buth Pros, another representative of the villagers, said they would continue to protest until the senator withdrew from the land.
However, Yong Phat told VOA Khmer on Wednesday that he was not connected to the dispute and that the demonstration was “political”.
“I don't know anything. Whoever is protesting has nothing to do with me. That's about politics, not about who gained wealth, or who lost wealth. It is all about politics,” he said.
Heng Huy, a tycoon who is also accused by the protesters of expropriating some of their land, said: “I don't have anything to worry about. I have nothing to do with the citizens because this land has its ownership.”
Environment Minister Say Sam Al told reporters that the government would investigate the issue.
In Kongcheth, a rights worker, said the dispute had “dragged on for too long” and had caused the citizens to “fall into poverty because they lost all of their income from farming.”