A mother and her baby among the 300 landless farmers outside the National Assembly
ABOUT 300 poor farmers from the northwest have had a hard time finding a place to
First they were thrown off their land in Kbal Spean village outside Poipet. Then
Phnom Penh police kicked them out of the park in front of the National Assembly where
they were protesting. Now municipal authorities are threatening to remove them from
their new camp outside Wat Botum, where an Interior Ministry official initially gave
them permission to settle.
All this because wealthy people wanted their land. In the land grab 800 households
were bulldozed away. No compensation was paid. And the only replacement land offered
was in the middle of a field strewn with land-mines.
Other land-grab victims in Poipet advised the farmers to go to the National Assembly
and demonstrate. None of them knew that the municipality banned campsite protesters
from the spot in July, so they were distressed on August 25 when police showed up
just before midnight and threatened to use water cannons against them if they didn't
move away. The police also confiscated tarpaulins, sacks of rice and cans of dried
The following night around 11 pm police forcefully moved them to the city's official
protest location near the Naga Casino. But the area is wet and flooded these days,
so the farmers moved to the spot in front of Wat Botum, across the park from the
Every morning they go to sit in front of the Assembly. At 5 pm they move back to
their makeshift camp outside the temple.
However, police now seem determined to confine them to the flooded area near the
casino. Every day police show up at the camp and tell the farmers to move.
But to where?, the villagers ask. A field with land mines outside Poipet?