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Freedom Park plantation protest

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Villagers from Kampong Cham province protest in Freedom Park yesterday against a tycoon’s land concession.

More than 150 villagers from Kampong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu district gathered at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh yesterday morning to protest against a plan to relocate them from three villages they say they have lived in since 1979 to make way for a rubber plantation.

A company owned by prominent businessman An Marady was behind the plan, they said, urging Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene on their behalf.

Staff from the company had asked families in three villages in Bos Knor and Ta Ong communes to accept new 10 by 20 metre plots and US$600 in compensation for relocating to a new site, protester Sun Tuoch, 52, said. “My home has a well and  electricity, and is near a road, school and hospital,” he said. “I don’t want to move.”

Hong Sreng, 38, said villagers were afraid they would be evicted.

As is customary, officials from the premier’s cabinet received a thumb-printed petition from the group and promised to relay their concerns directly to Hun Sen.

The petition says the families have lived on their land since 1979.

It tells the prime minister they already have a  school, a hospital, wells and electricity. It also tells him it is easy for them to earn a living, especially because they live near a road which makes transport easier, and it asks for his help.

An Marady could not be reached for comment yesterday. Heng Bin Yin, director of Kampong Cham’s Department of Agriculture, said his office had not been consulted about the economic land concession granted to the company,  and the decision had been made by the provincial hall.

Long Lim Hai, director of administration at the provincial hall,  declined to comm-ent yesterday.

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