Any hopes the ruling party might have entertained that a political deal with the opposition signed almost a month ago would help to defuse societal tensions would have faded yesterday, with three separate protests taking place across the city.
Rights groups say demonstrations have been on the rise in recent weeks, while Phnom Penh deputy police chief Chuon Narin described the current protest situation as “very messy”, though he said authorities were largely refraining from cracking down.
More than 200 Kampong Speu villagers rallied outside ANZ Royal bank offices yesterday, demanding compensation for alleged land grabbing perpetuated by sugar tycoon Ly Yong Phat, who financed his agro-concessions with loans from the bank.
Village representatives said the bank reiterated its position that affected families would have to deal with Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar directly, because its dealings with the firm had concluded.
Efforts by a few hundred workers from Xin Chang Xin garment factory in Russey Keo district to claim money they say is owed to them were similarly unsuccessful after a march to the Ministry of Labour.
“We will burn tyres in front of the factory tomorrow and then walk to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house to ask him for help, because we have lost hope in the Labour Ministry,” said Neak Norm, vice president of the Workers Union Federation.
A group of Boueng Kak lake evictees also took to the streets yesterday, protesting outside the National Assembly to ask for further restitution from City Hall and private developer Shukaku Inc.
Yesterday’s demonstrations follow a raft of others in recent weeks by groups including Kampuchea Krom nationalists, families affected by an Asian Development Bank-funded railway rehabilitation project, youth groups and factory workers.
Provincial communities embroiled in land disputes have also marched to the city, such as villagers from Lor Peang commune in Kampong Chhnang and Snuol district in Kratie.
After being blocked several times by authorities on their way to Phnom Penh, including being physically attacked and having three of their group arrested, 70 Lor Peang villagers involved in a dispute with KDC International are now staying with Boeung Kak lake community members.
Visiting them yesterday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy decried the actions of KDC – owned by Chea Keng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem – as “cowardly, cruel and vulgar”.
Neither Keng nor Sem could be reached yesterday.
Nay Vanda, deputy head of human rights at watchdog Adhoc, said it was clear that the end of political deadlock would not end protests.
“It will not stop; it will only increase more and more.”