Villagers Losing Land March to PM’s House

A group of 30 protesters from a community next to Phnom Penh International Airport took to the streets near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house Monday seeking land titles and compensation for property they are set to lose in the airport’s expansion.

After being blocked by riot police from marching up to Mr. Hun Sen’s house, the protesters gathered near Wat Botum pagoda, where they prayed to local spirits and held up signs denouncing their evictions.

The protesters are part of a group of about 600 families who are being asked to either vacate or move their homes as part of the ongoing airport expansion, according to Chray Nim, a community representative.

Ms. Nim said the families she represents are seeking $2,500 in compensation for each square meter of land they lose. They are also seeking hard titles for the remainder of their land.

“We came here today to submit a petition to Samdech [Hun Sen] to let him know what our community wants,” she said.

Although the families’ dispute with Cambodia Airports is longstanding, Ms. Nim said the impetus for Monday’s protest was a speech Mr. Hun Sen gave in September during which he told families embroiled in land disputes that local officials would find a solution for them.

She said villagers were disappointed to have heard nothing since then.

Following Monday’s protest march, Kong Chamroeun, a secretary in the prime minister’s cabinet, met the group outside Wat Botum to receive their petition.

“I have received your request,” he said. “I will send these documents through the hierarchy, because I am just a receiver.”

But protesters Monday said they doubted that their petition would be delivered to the prime minister, citing a speech Mr. Hun Sen gave in August when he claimed that his underlings did not inform him of land disputes.

In front of the media, they began praying before a small shrine in a banyan tree near the pagoda.

“Please, God, who lives in this banyan tree, be our witness: We’ve come here today to deliver this petition to [Mr. Hun Sen],” one villager said.

“Don’t let him make an excuse, saying he does not know anything. Please, let this petition be delivered into his hands.”

Officials from the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation could not be reached for comment.

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