Prominent businessman and Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat yesterday questioned what he had done to warrant a verbal attack from opposition party leader Sam Rainsy, who said on Wednesday that the tycoon had grabbed land from people in Koh Kong province and should “be careful”.
Speaking to the Post yesterday, Yong Phat said that although he had not heard Rainsy’s comments – which were posted in a video on his Facebook page – directly, he wasn’t sure what Rainsy’s motives were for attacking him.
“These days, I don’t understand him. Firstly, I have not mistreated people. In politics, I have also never done anything to affect him. I don’t know why he’s saying this,” he said.
A sugar company formerly owned by Yong Phat has long been embroiled in a land dispute with villagers in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district, who accuse the company of violent evictions and land grabbing.
Yong Phat sold his shares in the company in 2010 to Thai and Taiwanese investors, but sugar plantations owned by the ruling party senator in Kampong Speu province have been linked to labour abuses.
“We have tried to solve [some problems] for people. But some people do not listen to [us], they listen to politicians,” Yong Phat said.
He added that after hearing Rainsy’s words himself, he might write a letter directly to him to clarify certain issues. But he is not angry with the Cambodia National Rescue Party leader, Yong Phat maintained, because Rainsy is a politician and it is “his right” to criticise whoever he likes.
On Wednesday, as part of his subnational council election campaign, Rainsy told villagers in Sre Ambel district involved in the land dispute that Yong Phat was responsible for land grabs perpetrated by authorities to facilitate his business dealings.
“Ly Yong Phat! I tell you that you cannot live in happiness for the rest of your life. Ly Yong Phat, you have mistreated people in Koh Kong province. Ly Yong Phat, be careful!” Rainsy says in the clip.
Reached last night, the opposition leader stood by his comments and said that they were nothing personal.
“What I said is related to what he did to . . . hundreds of farmers who suffered because of his company expelling them from his land,” he said. “He can restore his honour. It’s never too late for him to find a solution for those farmers who suffered because of him.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KEVIN PONNIAH