Original report from Phnom Penh
23 November 2009
Senior ruling party leaders have officially denied accusations by the opposition that Cambodian farmers have lost land to Vietnamese encroachment.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is facing criminal charges for allegedly inciting villagers to tear up border demarcation posts they said were a sign of encroachment in Svay Rieng province.
“There are no farmers who have lost their rice fields,” the leading members of the Cambodian People’s Party, including Prime Minister Hun Sen, said in a Nov. 16 statement to former king Norodom Sihanouk, who requested an inquiry earlier this month. “The combined [border] technical team is working to demarcate the border poles, but have not demarcated both sides with pillars yet, and neither side has banned their farmers from farming their rice fields.”
Sam Rainsy, who is abroad, could not be reached for comment Monday. He had his parliamentary immunity suspended by the National Assembly Nov. 16, following charges by Svay Rieng provincial authorities alleging incitement and the destruction of the boundary poles, in Chantrea district, in October.
However, Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said in a statement the party leader had told the former king the people were “suffering” and had lost their rice fields at border marker No. 185.
Neither side was allowing the other to lose soil, the statement said, adding that both sides had committed to ending land demarcation by the end of 2012.
“If we want to know the facts, we must help the victims meet the king or retired king to speak the facts,” Yim Sovann said.
The CPP statement was “not true,” he said.
Sam Rainsy wrote the retired king on Nov. 7, claiming villagers had lost dozens of hectares of rice fields to border encroachment and that some of them had pulled the border posts in what they saw as an injustice.