More than 200 villagers locked in a years-long land dispute with a sugar company owned by senator tycoon Ly Yong Phat lined national road 48 yesterday, distributing leaflets to motorists and threatening to block the road next month if their situation is not resolved.
The villagers, who hailed from Chikor Leu commune in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel district, have been protesting against Ly Yong Phat’s Koh Kong Sugar Company since their violent eviction in 2006, when their land was bulldozed, and two villagers were reportedly wounded by gunfire from security forces.
The villagers’ representative, An Hai Ya, said yesterday that the 220 families wrote the leaflet about their tribulations to alert the public to their situation.
“That is the way to share their problem with everyone after they tried to protest many times to ask for resolution from the government, the company and the authorities,” he said, noting that villagers distributed more than 500 petitions.
An Hai Ya said that villagers, who stood in the rain for hours, also told motorists about the loss of their rice fields, among other problems.
“They don’t have work to do. More villagers leave home to find work at other places, their children go without school, and they threatened to block the road some time in June if they still cannot get any resolution,” he said
The villagers have already blocked national road 48 once, but protester Seng Kao said that yesterday’s motorists were largely sympathetic to their situation.
“Some passengers told me that we have to do this rather than keep quiet when powerful people abuse you or take your land,” he said. “If you do not protest or demand your land back, they will do the same to other weak people.”
Neang Boratino, Koh Kong’s provincial Adhoc coordinator, said that distributing leaflets to raise awareness was a good change of strategy.
“I think they are trying to find out the best protest strategy to request that authorities and the government give them a resolution,” he said.
Koung Sunly, chief of Sre Ambel military police, said that military police and police officers attended the demonstration to keep order and direct traffic, but did not interfere with protesters.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at [email protected]