More than 100 Pursat villagers who had lost faith in the court system and government invoked ancestor spirits and called on Buddha yesterday to help them resolve their land dispute, village representatives and an NGO spokesman said.
Village representative Kuch Veng said the group, from Krakor district’s Kbal Trach, Chhoeu Tom and Ansar Chambak communes, celebrated a traditional ceremony in Kbal Trach.
Proceedings had included monks being asked to bless villagers who opposed Pheapimex Group’s development of their land, he said.
“We asked the ancestor spirits to insult the company and the people involved in taking over the villagers’ land.”
In 2000, Pheapimex, which is owned by Choeng Sopheap, was granted 315,000 hectares of land in Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces as an economic land concession.
Village representative Duok Sary said the villagers had asked spirits to help their friends detained in prison in relation to land disputes.
“We want the company to drop the charges against these villagers,” he said.
When contacted by the Post, deputy provincial governor and company representative Ty Kimtok denied it was him.
“You have called the wrong number,” he said. “I am a cook in Battambang province.”
Ouch Leng, land reform project co-ordinator for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the government should ask why the villagers had turned to spirits for help.
“Villagers’ activity shows they have lost confidence in the court system and in government officers – so they have to ask Buddha for help,” Ouch Leng said.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org