Hundreds of housing rights protesters and evictees clashed with security forces outside Phnom Penh on Monday, leaving at least nine people with minor injuries.
The clash was one of the first since major violence over Freedom Park in the capital in July.
Protesters gathered outside the National Assembly Monday morning, hoping to deliver petitions of grievances, but when no one came out to accept the petitions, they decided to march on the suburban home of Prime Minister Hun Sen, in Kratie province, just outside the capital. There, they clashed with security personnel.
Soun Vicheka, a representative of the demonstrators, called the response to a peaceful march “unacceptable.”
“The local authorities have not found a solution for us,” he added. “They take bribes from development companies. If we had a choice, we would leave our homeland to live in the city.”
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said authorities in local communities are unable to deal with land issues and evictions. “This is why people from faraway provinces come to the city and ask for help from the prime minister,” he said.
Hun Sen in 2012 established a youth corps to help map out land for titles, but protesters said Monday that initiative had not worked.
“The students gave us temporary land identification, but until now the provincial authorities try not to give us exact land titles,” 53-year-old protester Sok Kheang said Monday. “And because we don’t have land titles, our lands are seized by development companies.”