Since May of this year, I have visited 7 villages in the North West of Cambodia. The plots of land they cleared – some died from land mines and malaria – is now being offered to a private company by the prime minister.
This journey to Sraloa Chrum village, Sampouv Loun district, Battamabang province was made on a road totally destroyed by rain. We had to take a Ko Youn or an “electric cow,” a sort of small tractor pulled with an engine set in the front. It took us 2 hours.We had already traveled by car, crossing through Bantey Meanchey province, for 3 hours.
We walked through the forest for another 40 minutes.
We finally arrived at the pagoda where people were waiting with a lot of patience for more than 4 hours.
The people welcomed us with open hearts and spoke of their fear for the lost of their land. A total of 4,095 hectares have already been offered by the prime minister without ever consulting the people. Local authorities are now forcing the villagers to comply with the order of the prime minister.
I spoke of their right to land. Land is life.
It got to be 7PM. We had to go to the next village as the chief of the village had prevented the people from coming to meet our team.
We would have to sleep in the next village.
Before leaving the pagoda, we prayed for the safety of the land. A 12 year old chanted louder than the monks. He had been a monk for one year but had to leave monkhood because the village chief considered his family as part of the opposition. He had never been to school.
My heart breaks to see so much endurance, so much pain and suffering of our rural poor.
They work the land. They will die for their land.
The children roam around, the pigs roam around, the cows roam around.
Women, with their children behind and carrying another life inside their wombs, still work the land.
There is so much injustice.
This is my land. These are my people.
That night, I cried a river. I was too exhausted to think. I was very hungry but could not take the wild pig meat offered with a bottle of coke and pounded rice. Thank god for the sweet bananas.
I slept in borrowed clothes.
Cross-posted with permission from Mu Sochua