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A plea from afar

Dear Editor,

Reading your article “Three more sought in removal of post at Svay Rieng border” (January 4) broke my heart.

The villagers should be congratulated and taken care of by the government for their courage in publicly claiming their ownership of the rice paddies and denouncing the violation of their territory by Vietnamese authorities who have mismanaged the process of demarcating the border. Instead, as unbelievable as it may sound, these five farmers face a terrifying fate and the loss of their status as “good” citizens.

There have been different interpretations of this story within the media, but at the end of the day, no one can deny the truth: Cambodian people living along the borders with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam no longer dare voice their concerns about neighbouring countries encroaching on their territory and stealing their land for fear of reprisals.

On one hand, the government may have good reason to accuse opposition leader Sam Rainsy of acting as a provocateur in bringing news of Vietnam’s mismanagement of border posts to the public. But on the other hand, the government is following a course of action that could rob Cambodia of its strength as a nation and destroy the immunity of every parliamentarian.

At the grassroots level, Cambodian people living along the border will no longer dare to stand up and protest against the theft of their land by neighbouring countries. At the national level, parliamentarians – both government and opposition – will lose confidence in their abilities to serve the genuine interests of the people.

The government must evaluate the situation fairly if it is to effecctively represent the nation’s interests. I would like to appeal to the government to restore the prowess of elected parliamentarians and allow them to fulfil their duties, which are more important than those of the lower court of Svay Rieng. I would also like to appeal to the government to drop all charges against the five farmers – Prak Chea, Neang Phally, Prak Koeun, Meas Srey and Prom Chea – and release them without condition.

Sophan Seng
University of Hawaii

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