Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land reform talk raises specter of Mugabe

Land reform talk raises specter of Mugabe

Land reform talk raises specter of Mugabe

African President Robert Mugabe's spectacular misgovernment of Zimbabwe seems to

be flavor of the month for Cambodian politicians criticizing the policies of their

opponents.

Mugabe's destruction of his country's economy has been used by Prime Minister Hun

Sen to illustrate the consequences he forecasts if other parties dislodge his Cambodian

People's Party (CPP) from power and institute land reform.

But opposition leader Sam Rainsy has likened Hun Sen to Mugabe for his failure to

stop the eviction of poor people from central Phnom Penh, and confirmed that when

the Sam Rainsy Party wins power it will confiscate private land corruptly acquired

and give it to the poor.

Hun Sen predicted disaster for Cambodia if other political parties take power in

the national election scheduled for 2008.

"Now the language of Pol Pot campaigns is coming," he told hundreds of

government officials and private sector representatives on August 15 at the launch

of the National Strategic Development Plan.

"I'm sorry, I don't want to frighten you, but the political message from other

political parties preparing to win victory and be Prime Minister, is that Zimbabwe's

Mugabe will happen in Cambodia."

He said if his opponents won the election, they would rearrange the [ownership] of

factories and hotels and land.

Therefore, workers should be ready to go back to the provinces and Cambodia would

have to evict people again from the cities to the provinces and from one remote area

to another just as under the Pol Pot regime.

Hun Sen said several political parties and an unidentified movement that has not

yet formed a party are preparing to take power, and they might not recognize the

existing national strategic development plan, nor business or investment contracts

signed with the current government, and thus investors would be discouraged.

"If I am still Prime Minister in the next government there will be no problem,"

Hun Sen said.

In response, Rainsy told the Post on August 16 that Hun Sen and his ruling CPP were

behaving like the dictatorship of Mugabe in their eviction of poor people from the

center of Phnom Penh.

Rainsy said Hun Sen's CPP had a history of seizing land from the poor and giving

it to the rich. And now Hun Sen was worried that because of the land grabs his party

would lose the election in 2008.

He said Hun Sen had repeated his promise not to tax farmers' land, but the promise

was meaningless because as long as the CPP remained in power the farmers' land would

continue to be taken away from them. With no land, of course, the poor would pay

no land tax.

Rainsy said the SRP will review all disputed land titles and contracts when it wins

power, and any land that has passed to private investors irregularly or corruptly

will be confiscated and given to the poor.

"Our party will not spend much time on election propaganda because the voters

have suffered enough and know about the violence committed by the ruling CPP, such

as the current forced evictions from the center of Phnom Penh," Rainsy said.

"What we can do is encourage a free and fair election and help eligible voters

to register so that they can all go and vote."

Rainsy rejected the idea of forming an "Alliance of Nationalists" with

Funcinpec, because he said the grassroots of Funcinpec were already joining the SRP.

"I think Funcinpec faces serious division in its leadership, and has no grassroots

supporters," Rainsy said.

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