Opposition leader Sam Rainsy met Wednesday with families locked in a long-running land dispute with two sugar plantations as part of his campaign swing through Koh Kong province ahead of Sunday’s council elections.
Several hundred families accuse the plantations—once owned by CPP Senator and business tycoon Ly Yong Phat—of stealing their farms, poisoning their local streams and killing their livestock. Among them, 200 are suing U.K. firm Tate & Lyle in London, claiming it owes them for sugar it has bought from stolen land.
Though only commune councilors are eligible to vote in the coming election, for district and provincial council seats, the opposition CNRP has spent the campaign attempting to rally mass support.
In a clip posted to his Facebook page, Mr. Rainsy can be seen speaking to a crowd of about 100 at a CNRP activist’s home in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district Wednesday morning.
“Before, people believed the Cambodian People’s Party because they showed only one hand, the right hand giving out kramas, sarongs and MSG,” he said. “But look at the other hand. What are they doing with it? They are strangling our necks and stealing our land.”
Mr. Rainsy singled out Mr. Yong Phat for special derision. The senator leased the land for the sugar plantations and used to hold a substantial stake, but has since sold out to the current Thai and Taiwanese owners.
“They [the government] stole land from the citizens and gave it to Ly Yong Phat’s company,” Mr. Rainsy told the crowd. “I send a message. Ly Yong Phat cannot live happily. His whole life Ly Yong Phat has mistreated the citizens of Koh Kong. Ly Yong Phat, you be careful.”
Mr. Yong Phat could not be reached. A business representative for the senator in Koh Kong, Lim Bok, declined to comment.
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