Saturday, October 31, 2009

Well Done Kep Thmey

In an exciting turn of events this week, Kep Thmey villagers took the gutsy step of appealing to the Prime Minister to voice their concerns over an economic development project on their coastal waters. What some describe as a bizarre plan, two weathly businessmen plan to fill in roughly 9 kilometers of coastal water to create a new special economic zone (SEZ).

Why Cambodia needs to create land for an SEZ as many others lie vacant and bereft of investors, is a question begging to be asked and answered.

On Wednesday the Keo Chea company began filling in coastal waters directly in front of Kep Thmey village. Villlagers were unprepared and were able to do little but give token resistance. They were easily moved out of the way of over 100 large trucks by 60 police. On Thursday morning an un named resister (or resisters) cut down a tree to prevent access to the village, but again were easily thwarted with overpowering machinery.

Completely daunted by the company, yet still willing to risk all, villagers, including Chan Dara, travelled to the PM's residence in Ta Khmao on Friday and amazingly their petition was recieved by prime ministerial secretary Nov Nara.

Well done Kep Thmey!

Officials politely asked the villagers to return home and wait for a response after the Water Festival. Hah! We've seen similar delay tactics before (remember Dey Krahorm?!). In the mean time company trucks will continue delivering payloads of dirt. Keep up the pressure, and voice your dissent until you get a fair hearing and the change in company's plans that you want.

Coastal waters may sound a little irrelevant, but they are a major source of economic activity for the villagers of Kep Thmey, Totung Thgnay and Roluos. Not to mention their cultural heritage as fishing communities. Without this natural resource their livelihood will be severely curtailed and need to look for work elsewhere (ie a dead-end factory job or moto dope).

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