Tag Archives: Battambang

Beung Kak Lake Update

A scene of immense suffering in front of the Court of Phnom Penh. The victims of Beung Kak lake land concession to a senator of the ruling party cry out for justice. Six have been summoned by the court for defamation, threat and insult. Threat carries a sentence of 6months to 1 year.

I spoke to them the previous day. They are determined to fight till the very end.

I shared with them my 15 months fight with the Cambodian justice system.

They know what is awaiting them but what else is left but to face the Court.

The show of force and courage of the people in front of the Court of Phnom Penh was too much pressure for the prosecutor. The questioning by the Court had to be postponed. The people vowed to return in bigger number.

Mu Sochua, MP

https://sochua.wordpress.com
“I do not fear death; I fear political silence against injustices”
-Malalai Joya, MP Afghanistan

Donate to Mu Sochua’s Justice Fund

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Fight for Your Land-Use Your Collective Power

Planting Democracy Seeds-Part 2

Rattanak Mondoul-Battambang Province-North West Cambodia

“My first husband died when he was just 25 years old. We had two children. We came to this part of the forest over 10 years ago. It was nothing but land mines. We were too desperate for land. Our young children watched their children blown up by a land mine”.

“I was clearing the forest and there it was: 3 land mines. I was so terrified, I was paralyzed. I will never forget that day”.

“The rich man tells me that I do not own this land, because I am too young. I say to him that I came with my father to plant these mango trees. I crossed this creek with my father every day. I know every parcel of this land. Do you?”

As I listen to this group of 40 farmers talking about their desperate search for land to cultivate, I hear their burning need for justice. For over a decade, they have farmed these plots of land collectively and have managed to build a community and survived year after year from the crops.

Today, rich and powerful men claim that every single plot of land in this community is theirs. They have the backing of the new village chief and the commune chief. They are protected by police and local authorities.

I say to the villagers:

Tell your stories. Tell the truth. That is your power.

Stand up together. That is your power.

Speak with one voice. That is your power.

The rich men do not have your power.

“Land is life- land is hope. ” a song from the messenger band. A group of young women who put justice into songs.

Sochua blog video BB day 2

“I do not fear death; I fear political silence against injustices”

-Malalai Joya, MP Afghanistan

Donate to Mu Sochua’s Justice Fund

Back in Battambang – Sesame Fields Forever

Thursday, June 09, 2011
By Mu Sochua

Six AM breakfast in Phnom Penh followed by a 4 hour drive up North to Battambang lands us in Koh Kroloh district of the province. The more off-road our journey gets the closer we get to the village, where landless people are having their sesame crops destroyed by what is being recalled as “the others”.

The land we stand on used to be a forest occupied by the Khmer Rouge, before integrating with the Royal Government Forces in 1997, and is now being seized by army chiefs. Despite the fact that the land is state owned, meaning that it is available for social concessions- for landless people, high ranking officials as well as private parties secretly want to keep this land as private. The issue has been brought up by landless farmers who have came from neighbouring districts in hope of harvesting state land as a mean for their livelihoods. The government on the provincial level has refused to come in and take control of the situation, leaving actions taken on this land highly questionable and evidently harmful for the landless farmers who have been residing the area for a number of years now.

After meeting with the farmers and investigating the damaged fields, Sochua, her team and the victims were brought to the local police station to personally discuss land issues with the authorities.

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Sochua holding sesame crops

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Sochua talking with farmers about their destroyed land.

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Walking towards destroyed field.

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Farmers brought to police to discuss land issues w/ local authorities.

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Investigating destroyed sesame crops.

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Investigating destroyed sesame crops 2

 

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Local transportation.

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Local transportation 2

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Meeting

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Sam Rainsy Party member at work.

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Landless farmer, victim of land mine

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In the fields.

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Listening to their thoughts and concerns.

Photos by Philip Skoczkowski

Small Market Vendors Squeezed by High Government Tax

Psar Nath is the main market in Battambang town built by the French in the 1960’s. Early this week, over 200 vendors, mainly women marched to the office of the provincial governor. The governor has increased the rental of the stalls while business is slow. Over 1,000 vendors rent stalls at the market.

Stories I heard when visiting the markets are similar from stall to stall. The business is slow. Farmers have less money to spend. Civil servants and workers can not afford to buy goods. The high price of gasoline is another factor affecting to the hard times of the market vendors.

The market has no proper toilet facilities. Some vendors who can not afford to pay the extra dime for each time they use the private toilet facility must be creative and build a corner in their small stall that is hidden by a plastic curtain. To women, this is shame.

There is a felt level of fear among those vendors who have spoken up. After I left the market, one of the most outspoken vendors was approached by the head of the market committee and scolded by the rest of the fearful vendors for having told me the truth.

The issue will be raised at the next meeting with the governor by my local teams. We will continue to visit the vendors and inform them of their rights and engage them in developing strategies to continue the dialogue with the office of the governor.

Hundreds protest over land grant- Phnom Penh Post

More than 500 villagers from Battambang province’s Sampov Loun district gathered yesterday to protest against a land concession of more than 4,000 hectares that they say will push them off their farmland.

The villagers were joined by Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, who said the 70-year, 4,095-hectare land concession, awarded in March to Suon Mean Sambath Company, had been granted on the land of more than 1,000 families in Sampov Loun’s Serei Meanchey commune.

“The developments of the government nowadays are harmful to the people,” she said. “The people’s suggestion is for the government to think of the people first before thinking about companies.”

Read the complete article on the Phnom Penh Post website.

http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php?option=com_jomcomment&task=trackback&id=49354&opt=com_content

Back on the Campaign Trail- Land is Life (Post 1)

“The villagers clear the land – the government sells the land. Is this reduction of
poverty?”

Following the reintegration of the Khmer Rouges army in the late 1990’s, Prey
Roneam Daunh Som – a forest area covering 17,000 hectares was declared as
protected forest area under a royal decree.

In search of land and a new life, thousands of destitute villagers from different parts of Cambodia moved their families West-ward to this new frontier of Phnom Preuk, Sompuv Loun, Kom Rieng and Pailin. The area was heavily mined by both the Khmer Rouges and the government during the war.

Since 1998, the forest was cleared by the villagers. The clearing continues till today. Less than 10% of the forest remains. Families headed by women and people with disabilities clear less land than others. Land that has been cleared is unofficially owned by 1,500 families, representing 6,000 people.

In May 2011, the prime minister signed off 4,095 hectares of the farmed land to Soun Mean Sambath company without any consultation with the villagers.

Our team was contacted by villagers early last week, requesting urgent assistance.

The opposition receives just around 10% of the votes at each election.

The villages have no school, no health center, no drinking water. The people live in abject poverty and in fear of local authorities.

I will continue to post regarding this issue. Please follow along.