REPRESENTATIVES of more than 600 disabled military veterans and their families protested in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Phnom Penh on Monday to renew demands for land they say was promised to them.
The protesters, who numbered roughly 100, said authorities had failed to adequately address their claims after pledging to do so during a meeting in early June.
Yan Yoeuk, director of Association Cripple Development, said four representatives met officials at the Ministry of Environment and the premier’s cabinet yesterday.
He said they were asked to resubmit documents, including a letter from National Assembly President Heng Samrin, ordering officials to resolve the situation.
“They still ask us to wait, but we cannot wait anymore,” Yan Yoeuk said after the meetings.
In 2008, the families asked for 4,000 hectares of protected land in Kratie’s Snuol district, Yan Yoeuk said. However, provincial officials told them in April this year that, rather than being protected, the land belonged to five private companies.
He said authorities also accused the families of using fake documents in submitting their request.
Ung Seng, chief of cabinet at the Environment Ministry, said Monday that the case was “complicated”, and that senior officials would be consulted before a decision was reached on what to do with the “protected land”.
Kham Phoeun, the governor of Kratie province, said the land the veterans were demanding was part of a wildlife sanctuary.
He confirmed that the government granted the land to five private companies, which he declined to name, to develop rubber plantations.
“The companies clearing the land have legal concessions from the government,” Kham Phoeun said. “The government has a policy to give disabled soldiers land concessions, but they can’t just point when they want this plot or that plot.”
But the families say they need somewhere to live. Chorn Leap, one of the villagers, said the families have been forced to squat on land in Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kratie, Takeo, Svay Rieng and Prey Veng provinces.
“We want the government to give us land so that we have rice fields to grow and feed our families,” she said. “We do not want to fight with any company.”