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Food aid protests spread to Pursat, Oddar Meanchey

Food aid protests spread to Pursat, Oddar Meanchey

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3-story-104.jpg

Villagers are up in arms, saying local authorities only gave handouts to their friends, family and other CPP members

Photo by: PHOTO SUPPLIED

Pursat province villagers demand equal rice distribution on Monday. 

IN two simultaneous demonstrations, more than 300 people protested against the what they said was the unfair distribution of the Asian Development Bank's emergency food handouts in Pursat and Oddar Meanchey provinces Monday.

More than 220 people from Pursat's Thmey Ra village rallied in front of the commune office for the second time in three days, saying that they have not received any rice, because the village chief distributed only to his family, friends and fellow CPP members, a rights group said.

In Oddar Meanchey province, more than 100 people from Pa'ng and Krouch Sakhorn villages demonstrated against their village chiefs at the provincial office, a resident said.

"We are in front of the provincial office today to ask for rice, because the rice donations given by ADB have only been received by the village chiefs' relatives," Maing Sameth, 27, said from Oddar Meanchey province.

Kuoy Kakda, a Licadho monitor based in Pursat, told the Post Monday: "There was already a small protest by representatives of Thmey Ra village after they discovered that their names were not on the list to receive rice".

"The local authority was in charge, and he gave rice only to his friends, relatives and rich people - especially the members of the [CPP]," Kuoy Kakda said.

Srey Naren, Adhoc's coordinator in Oddar Meanchey province, echoed complaints from Pursat province that "village chiefs have always registered their relatives to get donations from officials and generous people".

Local village chief Soung Saroeun, however, denied allegations of improper distribution.

"I followed directions from the top, and I have the documents to confirm it," he said.

The acting Krakator district governor Ly Pon told the Post that the problem had been resolved.

"I called a meeting with six representatives of Thmey Ra village. It was agreed that they will receive 37 sacks [one sack equals 35kg].

Everyone agreed when the village chief promised to the crowd that he will distribute rice fairly next time."

Chantha Kim, external relations coordinator at the ADB, said they had not received complaints from Oddar Meanchey or Pursat provinces, but they had heard grievances about rice distribution in two districts in Battambang province.

Once this first component of ADB's three-year plan is over on Wednesday, they will review the complaints and come up with an improved distribution system in the future, he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHRISTOPHER SHAY AND THET SAMBATH

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