Hundreds of families descended on Phnom Penh yesterday to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen and the United Nations to intervene in three separate land disputes.
More than 800 families from across the country gathered in front of Wat Botum at about 9am, where they submitted petitions to Kong Chamroeun, a cabinet officer, who promised to take their complaints to the premier.
“We will ask our officers to study the cases,” Chamroeun said.
At about midday, the families marched to the UN offices, where they delivered petitions to visiting UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi.
Those gathered included 89 families from Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Tralach district, who have been involved in a long-running land dispute with KDC Development Company, which is headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem.
Community representative Sam Sophy said the authorities have turned a blind eye to the land grabbing and tearfully called for the government to take action.
“The law enforcement is applied only for the poor, but for the rich, it is never implemented. Our problems have not been addressed; they have brought machinery to clear our land,” she said.
“I would like [Hun Sen] to find justice for us . . . please samdech, intervene for our land. We need it for farming, because the rainy season is approaching.”
The Kampong Chhnang villagers were joined in their calls for action by 310 families from Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district and 419 families from Kratie province’s Snuol district who are embroiled in separate disputes.
Chan Soveth, a senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said the large turnout showed that people have lost confidence in local authorities.
“This shows that the lower authorities are weak and that they work for the salary, so those people have come to the capital,” he said.
According to Adhoc, between 2000 and 2013 at least 700,000 people across the Kingdom were affected by land grabbing or forced displacement.