FAMILIES who fear they will soon face forcible eviction from their land in Koh Kong province sought to plead their cases with Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday, but were stopped by security guards when they tried to hand-deliver a petition, villagers and officials said.
Representatives for the 43 families in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district said they were trying to encourage Hun Sen to intervene in their case during his visit for the inauguration of a sugar cane processing plant in the province.
“We wanted to meet the prime minister to beg for a solution to our problems,” said representative Phao Nheung.
In October, a Koh Kong provincial court judge divided the land between two businessmen who had competing claims to it, leaving the 43 families in limbo.
The businessman who was awarded the majority of the land, Heng Huy, reportedly has plans to plant cassava there.
When members of some of the affected families tried to enter the site of the inauguration ceremony, Phao Nheung said, security guards stopped them and confiscated the documents they were carrying.
Tep Hay, another villager, said the villagers had no intention of causing a disruption during the ceremony and should have been allowed to attend it.
Sre Ambel district inspector Ma Ty said the families were prevented from entering because security guards had been instructed to keep order while the prime ministerattended the inauguration. He added that the families had also arrived late to the ceremony.
“The entrance and exit were restricted when the ceremony began, and some villagers who were late were not allowed to enter, even though they had an invitation,” he said.
During his speech at the ceremony, Hun Sen appealed to Bun Leut, the recently appointed governor of Koh Kong province – who was formerly district governor of Sre Ambel – to work on behalf of all of the province’s residents.
“I hope Bun Leut will try his best to serve and bring development to the citizens of Koh Kong province,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said in his speech.