AROUND 150 disabled military veterans representating hundreds of families from across the country protested in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh villa Wednesday, calling on the premier to grant them 4,000 hectares of protected land in Kratie province.
Yan Yoeuk, director of Association Cripple Development, an organisation representing disabled veterans, said 620 families filed a request to national and provincial authorities in 2008 for the right to settle on a protected area of land in Snuol district, where they hoped to each receive 5-hectare plots.
But on April 24, Kratie officials informed them that the land belonged to five private companies, he said. They also accused the veterans of submitting “fake documents” bearing the false signatures of senior officials, including National Assembly President Heng Samrin.
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said the Ministry of Environment was collaborating with provincial officials to review the veterans’ request.
“Our government has a policy of providing social land concessions to veterans and also to normal people who don’t have homes or land,” he said.
Kham Phoeun, Kratie provincial governor, said his hands were tied since the land is currently under protection. “We have to talk with the Ministry of Environment and see what they will do,” he said.
But Mao Duon, a veteran who participated in the protest, said this explanation made little sense. “If that land is protected, why did the authorities give it to companies which are now ... clearing the land?” he said.
Sok Kheng Norvin, the national parks chief at the Environment Ministry, said the veterans needed to “calm down”, but promised to present the case to the premier and deliver an answer within a month.