A wise man once said something about not forgetting the past as history has a habit of repeating itself.
On April 17 1975 the Khmer Rouge walked into and took over Phnom Penh. Although they held power for just a few years, the name Khmer Rouge and the name of its leader, Pol Pot, live on in infamy. This political party had a dream of a country of peasants that created a vast and self-sufficient agricultural nation. They were not slow in setting about to attain this dream. Within one week of gaining power, the capital became a ghost town as people were forced out of their homes and to the rural areas, usually by gun point; families were separated, anyone who refused was killed. Once the city was cleared mass executions began… and the rest is history.
But as I said: history does tend to repeat itself—even if motivations may vary.
Three days ago several villages were cleared. Over 120 people, both young and old, were forced from their homes with only what they could carry. Their animals were all shoot. They walked for two days and are now camped out on the streets of Phnom Penh outside one of the many Buddhist sanctuaries. No homes. No land. No animals. No money. Nothing.
*** UPDATE: According to the Cambodia Daily, which is an English publication and mostly free press, clarified that the individuals were evicted from Koh Kong. They came mostly by foot (but some took a bus) to request an audience with Hun Sen to resolve their dispute. The park they are camped out in has had vehicles with load speakers driving around it asking them to leave for their own safety. They have not yet been granted an audience even though earlier in 2006 Hun Sen declared “war” on land-grabbers. The villagers are refusing to leave.
*** UPDATE: In another pressing case, it looks like more than 4,000 families near Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak area may be evicted from their land!