Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers suspect protesters were sent by sugar company

Villagers suspect protesters were sent by sugar company

Protesters demonstrate against land rights NGO Equitable Cambodia in Phnom Penh
Protesters demonstrate against land rights NGO Equitable Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Friday. Locals have accused them of being hired by a sugar company that displaced families in Kampong Speu. Fresh News

Villagers suspect protesters were sent by sugar company

Following protests against land rights NGO Equitable Cambodia (EC) on Friday, several villagers in affected communities in Kampong Speu’s Oral district voiced concern yesterday that the protests might have been staged by the company that the communities stand in conflict with.

On Friday, villagers protested in front of EC against the organisation’s “incitement” of communities locked in a land dispute with tycoon Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar, then reportedly submitted a petition to the Interior Ministry asking that the NGO be closed. The organisation represents communities nationwide that are in dispute with companies and the government.

But rice farmer Phnong Sokit, 58, from Trapaing Chor commune, said yesterday that the villagers who lost land in Oral district weren’t the ones protesting on Friday. “I think this group of people was hired by the companies,” he said. “They may have just given them the bus fee, food costs and some money. Equitable Cambodia is doing a good job, they teach us to understand our rights, not to use violence and to get proper compensation.”

Khon Khorn, 61, said she also believed the protests were staged. “The NGO just helps us to understand our rights, and they told us not to demand more than what we actually deserve,” she said. “We will protest if the NGO closes, because the NGO doesn’t do any harm.”

Chan Sokhoeun, a 49-year-old farmer, echoed the assessment, saying that he knew some of those who attended the protest. “They were former . . . victims. I think now some of them were offered jobs by the company,” he said, adding that he suspected the protest was meant to discredit EC after the company failed to properly compensate all the victims. “It’s not a proper protest, because it does not reflect reality.”

But one of Friday’s protest leaders, Chey Beurn, refuted the allegations.

“No one hired me,” he said. “I came because we saw the NGO was acting unfairly . . . We went there with our own budget for transportation.”

Andy Seng, director of Phnom Penh Sugar, which is in dispute with communities in Oral district, said he had only heard of the protests and petition through the media. “Phnom Penh sugar are committed to develop the community and we are bringing villagers with new road access, clean water supply, electricity, school, medical, irrigation, and employment opportunities,” he said in an email.

“We do not support the activities that [go] beyond our community development programme. Please do not link our company with the protest.”

EC and the Ministry of Land Management could not be reached yesterday.

Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski

MOST VIEWED

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and

  • Cambodia detects new Covid cases after 52 days: PM

    After 52 days of zero new Covid-19 cases, Cambodia has now detected new infections, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In his special audio address to the nation late on June 28, Hun Sen said the new cases were detected on people who had undergone PCR tests

  • Cotton club growing in Battambang

    The global market for “vegan leather” – materials that act as alternatives to traditional leather that can be synthesised from cork, apple peels, cactus, recycled plastic, grape pomace and pineapple leaves, among other things, and supposedly require no chemicals or water to produce – is expected to