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Protesters take it to the World Bank

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People affected by land grabbing in the Boeung Kak lake community protest outside the World Bank office in Phnom Penh yesterday, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post

Protesters are confident the World Bank will maintain its freeze on loans to Cambodia until the Boeung Kak lake land dispute is resolved, a village representative said yesterday.

Amid a 100-strong protest outside, seven representatives met with World Bank country manager Alassane Sow at his office in Norodom Boulevard, where they claim he made a strong pledge to help them.

“We’re happy,” Boeung Kak lake resident Doung Kea said after the meeting. “He claims he will continue to freeze loans to the government if there is no solution to our land dispute in a transparent way.”

The World Bank last loaned to Cambodia in December 2010 and said in August last year it would not offer more loans to the government until it resolved the Boeung Kak dispute.

Later that month, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced on-site relocation for more than 750 families in an area of 12.44 hectares – land yet to be demarcated.

In response to questions to Sow about the World Bank’s position on loaning to Cambodia, country spokesman Bou Saroeun yesterday asked for emailed correspondence, before referring to vice-president Pamela Cox’s comments about the matter in the Post on December 7.

Back then, Cox said World Bank loans to Cambodia would not resume before the 2013 national election, but said the bank didn’t put conditions on loans.

Monday’s Gangnam Style-influenced show of dissent gave way to a more customary protest outside the bank yesterday, involving villagers from Boeung Kak, Borei Keila and Thma Kul communities.

It came as rights group Amnesty International called for the release of land-eviction protesters Yorm Bopha, 29, from Boeung Kak, and Borei Keila’s Tim Sakmony, 65, describing charges as “trumped up”.

“We consider both women to be prisoners of conscience, and they should be released immediately” said Amnesty campaigner Janice Beanland. Both women have been held in Prey Sar on separate charges since early September and will go to trial on Wednesday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Khouth Sophak Chakrya at sophakchakrya.khouth@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from: Shane Worrell

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