Cambodians stand their ground against government’s land grabs

Cambodians stand their ground against government’s land grabs

Housewives-turned-protesters and a man who refuses to move despite being walled off from access to water are among those profiled on Get Rea!

Known as the Boeung Kak 13, the Cambodian women fought back against the land grab.
Known as the Boeung Kak 13, the women fought back against the land grab.

PHNOM PENH: A spate of land grabs by the government has seen more than 800,000 Cambodians evicted from their homes, according to the International Federation of Human Rights.

But rather than submit, some villagers are standing their ground and making their voices heard, the investigative programme Get Rea! finds out.

Boeung Kak is home to two of Phnom Penh’s most strident protesters, Tep Vanny and Khin Chanta. They are among the holdouts of a community once 4,000-household strong.

Tep Vanny is the leader of Boeung Kak 13, a protest group made up of 13 village women. “This event has turned Boeung Kak women who had been housewives into protesters demanding justice from the government and these companies,” Tep Vanny said.

WATCH: The story of Tep Vanny, leader of an all-women protest group

Offered a land plot five times smaller than that of his current home, Khin Chanta’s refusal to move is his protest against unequal compensation.

Developers have since struck back by cutting off water and power and accessibility to Khin Chanta’s home - by building a wall around it.

WATCH: The story of Khin Chanta

Video man who can't be moved

In 2001, the Cambodian government started selling off land to private companies for development - the sale of which has earned the government US$80 million from 2013 to 2015, according to Cambodia’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.

However, officials claim that effort is being made to ensure equitability. “There is a real willingness among our officials to help the people, instead of damaging the country and benefiting only a certain group of people, which is what some people claim,” said Seng Loth, spokesperson of Cambodia’s Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.

The Get Rea! episode Losing Ground premieres Jan 10 at 8pm SG/HK.

Source: CNA/yv