Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Kampong Speu protesters reject NGO’s help



Kampong Speu protesters reject NGO’s help

People from Kampong Speu protest outside the offices of Equitable Cambodia yesterday morning where they withdrew their consent for the NGO to represent them.
People from Kampong Speu protest outside the offices of Equitable Cambodia yesterday morning where they withdrew their consent for the NGO to represent them. Hong Menea

Kampong Speu protesters reject NGO’s help

In defiance of an order by Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khoun Sreng, more than 100 people protested outside the offices of Equitable Cambodia (EC) yesterday.

They held signs denouncing the NGO, as community representatives inside submitted a letter withdrawing their consent for the group to represent them in a land dispute with one of Cambodia’s most powerful tycoons, Ly Yong Phat.

EC began representing Kampong Speu families displaced by economic land concessions housing Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company plantations in 2010, shortly after the concessions were granted.

However, on May 27 this year, a crowd formed outside EC’s Phnom Penh office demanding that 216 families be taken off the NGO’s client list. It later transpired their presence was a condition for the majority to receive $500 compensation per family.

EC executive director Eang Vuthy noted at the time that of the 216, only 61 had been registered with EC.

More evictees arrived on EC’s doorstep yesterday, despite Sreng’s ruling the previous afternoon that only 10 representatives could attend, with the rest to gather at Freedom Park.

As they disembarked from a fleet of minivans, many were handed signs bearing slogans: “Stop your incitement in our community” and “EC is no longer our representative”.

Footage obtained by the Post showed multiple sign bearers who seemed unaware of what their signs said.

One is asked whether they were there to criticise the NGO. “No, I didn’t come here for that,” he said, having moments earlier said, “I don’t know [why I’m here].”

But community representative Phal Vannak said they were withdrawing their complaints to make way for company development projects, adding that EC had “provoked some villagers to demand more compensation”.

An EC statement released yesterday acknowledged community members’ right to withdraw their proxy, but resolved to continue supporting community members that requested help.

Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) executive director Chak Sopheap described yesterday’s gathering as “highly unusual”. She added that while CCHR respects the community’s decision and their right to freely assemble, “we sincerely hope for the community’s sake that this was a free and informed decision”.

Licadho deputy director of advocacy Naly Pilorge said it was clear that most villagers “did not really understand why or what they were protesting”, adding that the gathering seemed to be led by individuals with close ties to Phnom Penh Sugar.

Independent analyst Billy Tai said it was “entirely likely they [the villagers] would be mobilised by an interest group that is against EC”. He added that it would “seem obvious that the interest group in this case would be Phnom Penh Sugar, or at least funded by Phnom Penh Sugar”.

Company director Seng Nhak did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

After the visit to EC, a petition was delivered to the EU Embassy asking that it no longer involve itself in the dispute.

A statement from EU Ambassador George Edgar yesterday said the EU had never been involved.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen says Kingdom not a 'satellite country'

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia had sent diplomatic notes to various embassies demonstrating its stance and clarifying allegations that the Kingdom is a satellite country of China which will allow it exclusive access to the Ream Naval Base in Preah Sihanouk province. The response

  • Vast Prince Manor fun park opens to much fanfare in Kandal

    Chinese-owned Prince Culture and Development Co Ltd officially launched the $85 million Prince Manor entertainment centre in Kandal province on Wednesday. Prince Manor is located along National Road 1, 20km from the centre of Phnom Penh. It is the first major theme park project in Cambodia and

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Cintri strike ends, workers’ contracts to be terminated

    CINTRI (Cambodia) Ltd rubbish collectors who have been on strike for the past 13 days agreed to return to work starting Wednesday evening after the company agreed to terminate their contracts at the end of January next year and provide seniority payments and other benefits to