Around 300 villagers in a struggle with Kratie province’s Memot Rubber Plantation, where security forces fired on protesters last month, have petitioned Prime Minister Hun Sen for a solution to an ongoing land dispute, but were quickly corralled by local authorities and bussed back to the province after submitting the document.
The plantation was the site of a demonstration to protest the razing of villagers’ huts in early March. Security forces fired on the crowd, injuring three. Initial reports suggested some protesters were killed, though no evidence has surfaced to support the claim.
The villagers on Monday submitted a petition to Hun Sen’s cabinet asking to be included in a compensation plan for residents affected by the land concession. While Memot Rubber has said it will hand over 3,000 hectares of its land to villagers, the offer has only been extended to some of the plantation’s residents.
“Last time we went to submit the petition on March 26 and then district and provincial authorities told us to leave and that they would deal with it for us,” said villager Chhai Na.
“As soon as we left, the commune and authorities only collected our information for two days and didn’t complete it for all people.”
Following submission of the petition, Na said Military Police officials forced them to get on to buses and drove them the 240 kilometres back to Kratie.
Phnom Penh Governor Khoung Sreng said he met with the villagers – not to find a solution but to ask why so many of them had come to the capital.