VILLAGERS from 19 provinces who marched on Phnom Penh last week to protest land concessions met Monday with Ministry of Interior officials who, though acknowledging the growing problem of landlessness, said more investigation was needed into cases of property seizures.
"[The villagers] need us to find justice for them. We must investigate more," said Sim Sovanney, deputy director of the ministry's Inspection Department, the first government office to meet the villagers.
The villagers, representing hundreds of families affected by land concessions, came to the capital last Tuesday with petitions containing more than 119,000 thumbprints that were lodged with various government offices, including the National Assembly and Council of Ministers.
Chhe Sambo, a 45-year-old villager from Siem Reap province, said she was grateful for the opportunity to discuss the villagers' problem. "This meeting is a sign to show that the government cares about us," she said.
Seng Sok Heng, a village representative from Oddar Meanchey province who did not attend the Ministry of Interior meeting, said that economic land concessions have long been a problem for Cambodian villagers.
"In some cases, land disputes between villagers and private individuals have been unsolved for 10 years," he said. "We have tried many times to file complaints at all government levels, but our complaints are always ignored."