A BOUT 500 farmers demonstrated on front of the National Assembly in support of
Hun Sen's Development Center in Kandal province, after it was criticized by a
newspaper as "an agricultural disaster."
Shouting and waving banners
reading: "We condemn untrue newspaper reports! We support Samdech Hun Sen's
project," the demonstrators wound their way through Phnom Penh on Feb 27.
They stopped at the National Assembly and Khmer Journalists Association,
where they condemned the Serey Pheap Thmey News (New Liberty News) before ending
their march cheering in front of Hun Sen's house.
Most of the protesters
came from Krang Yov commune, Sang district, Kandal, where part of the
development is located.
Some local newspapers have accused the
demonstrators of being CPP supporters and of receiving the party's help to pay
for transportation and food for the rally.
But one of the
demonstration's leaders, who declined to be named, said the villagers determined
to came to Phnom Penh by themselves. They asked district and provincial
authorities to provide transport because they had none. "I am not in favor Hun
Sen, but what he has done is a benefit to the people," said Chum Mi, a villager
from Krang Yov.
In its Feb 19 edition, New Liberty News reported people
would starve and hundreds tonnes of rice would be lost because of "destructive
elements" in the plan.
The newspaper also said people were angry because
they were being forced to work hard to build dikes and channels for the project.
It said the "stupid" plan would destroy hundreds of hectares of rice fields and
cause environmental damage.
The report had no expert comment supporting
The project includes two power stations; a 13-kilometer
road; two schools; a three-room clinic and a credit program to help farmers buy
200 oxen, 150 tonnes of fertilizer and 50 tonnes of seeds.