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Land Grab Victims Vow Continued Demonstrations

Chan Soveth, left, deputy chief of investigation at the rights group Adhoc, and Um Sophy, right, a village representative, from Kampong Chhnang province.

Villagers from Kampong Chhnang province say they will continue to demonstrate outside the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen until they find a resolution for their forced evictions and detained activists.

About 100 people from the remote village of Lor Pearng have come to the capital to protest a land dispute that has been ongoing for nearly 10 years.

“If the prime minister solves this for us, we will absolutely go back home,” Um Sophy, a village representative, told “Hello VOA.”

Hun Sen has called on national and local authorities to work harder to resolve ongoing land disputes, which have emerged as a major problem nationwide affecting hundreds of thousands of people, leading to protests and, early this week, clashes between protesters and security forces outside the premier’s home.

Um Sophy said protesters are demanding a release of five land activists, jailed under false charges. They also want to see an “immediate solution,” she said. “Because we are farmers, we need the land.” And they are asking for the development company KCK to stop putting up fencing and deploying security forces in the village.

“In this land dispute, we have not received any solutions, just intimidation and detention of victims, especially the five of our community who are in prison,” she said. “Not only that, but when we traveled to Phnom Penh to express our opinions, the authorities beat us, broke our people’s heads and destroyed our rice packages. This is very unjust for the people.”

Chan Soveth, deputy chief of investigation at the rights group Adhoc, said authorities and the courts appear biased toward the development company, rather that protecting the basic rights of people. “That is impacting the freedoms of expression and livelihood, and so on,” he said. “That is called intimidation.”

Authorities should follow the rule of law, and not the edicts of the prime minister, he said, which are often not effective.

“But if all civil servants mainly followed the law, for example, in the Lor Peang community case, if they thoroughly investigated the situation to find out where the exact source of the conflict is, then they would know the black and the white,” he said. “But so far an investigation to find the truth has not been done.”