Bombing in Ansarchambok Commune, Pursat province, injures 6 villagers, three seriously hurt.
Bounthoeun, one of the radio program staff (a project of which I am advising), sent the above text to me early morning of Saturday. I jumped out of bed in shock because I know he’s there, with The NGO Forum (an umbrella network), doing some research over the weekend. To my utter relief, he was several kilometers away from where the bombing incident happened. I said a quick prayer of thanks that he is safe. He told me he was there at the farmers’camp earlier, talking with the farmers and toying with the idea of spending the night there with the farmers. But since he has an early morning interview with a local official, he decided otherwise. The villagers, mostly farmers from Kompong Chhnang and Pursat provinces, were gathered in Ansarchambok commune to protest against the logging operations of a controversial land and timber company. In 2001, the farmers also rallied against of the same company which temporarily halted its operations.
The bomb exploded (about 12:40am, Saturday) among a group of (mostly sleeping) villagers protesting against a private land and timber company, which is about to clear hundreds and thousands of hectares of land to make way for a eucalyptus plantation. It wasn’t clear who was responsible, but later today The Cambodia Daily (TCD) reported that villagers suspect the company is involved in this as part of the scare tactics. This is a very controversial issue since, according to TCD, the company is considered the largest private landholder in the country, and is said to have ties with the PM.
This news, The Cambodia Daily said, would test the government’s promises for land reform in the country. Incidentally, the bombing happened just days before the meeting of donors where land issues is one of the most prominent issues to be tackled. The bombing incident will definitely have an impact in the discussions. We will see what will happen in the coming days.
Cambodia has rich and diverse natural resources. Despite over two decades of internal conflicts, the country still possesses vast natural resources worthy of conservation. The growing economic pressures brought about by the return of political stability have opened the country’s doors to major changes in terms of both economic and development resource use. While most resources has been used sustainably for centuries by local people, economic pressures are forcing many people to lose control of the resources. Land distribution is increasingly inequitable, and disputes for land and access to forests, sometimes violent like the recent incident in Pursat province, are increasing. The State laws are weak and considered by NGOs as inadequate for protecting the rights and ensuring access to land and natural resources for most Cambodians.