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Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong meets with villagers during a pre-election visit to the Boeung Kak lake community in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong meets with villagers during a pre-election visit to the Boeung Kak lake community in Phnom Penh. HONG MENEA

Voters split in Boeung Kak

The battle for Phnom Penh at Sunday’s national election will be fought out with the years-long Boeung Kak land dispute still unresolved, after the city’s governor announced yesterday a solution would be found only after the ballot, villagers said.

Governor Pa Socheatvong, who in May promised to resolve the drawn-out dispute, visited the site yesterday, villager Heng Mom said.

The pledge leaves the already-divided Boeung Kak community considering which party is more likely to provide them with a solution to their woes.

In recent weeks, Mom has been accused of being bought by the CPP for publicly speaking out against her former friend and cellmate at Prey Sar prison, Tep Vanny.

“But my family and I have always supported the CPP,” she said yesterday. “I have joined CPP rallies, even though I felt disappointed … when they bulldozed my home.”

Mom, whose house carries CPP signs on its front, can be forgiven for being disappointed. But why support the party that destroyed her house?

“I’ll vote for them again, because they need to pay me back,” asserted Mom.

Vanny said yesterday that she was “very pleased” the governor had visited Boeung Kak. But some of the families she represents said police had kept them away from the governor.

Last Friday, when opposition leader Sam Rainsy made a triumphant return to Cambodia, one of Vanny’s group, Nget Khun, 73, was pressed up against the stage at Freedom Park, awaiting his homecoming speech.

“Before, I supported the CPP,” she said yesterday. “But since they tried to steal my home and land, beat me as we protested … I have stopped supporting them.

“I have followed the CNRP since I saw that their seven policies included focusing on rescuing poor people from land disputes.”

Sia Phearum, Housing Rights Task Force secretariat director, said it was disappointing the government had not resolved the dispute before the election.

“The previous governor promised not to evict them after the election and then did,” he said. “But it’s their right to choose who they will vote for.”

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