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Farmers hounded wherever they go

Farmers hounded wherever they go

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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

be.

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

fish.

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

National Assembly.

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?

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