Cambodian Opposition Activists Are Denied Aid to Repair Storm-Damaged Homes

Two families living in a storm-hit village in northwestern Cambodia's Battambang province have been refused government help in repairing their homes, prompting charges by family members that they are being discriminated against because of their affiliation with an opposition political party.

The two households were among 28 whose dwellings were destroyed on April 26 in Battambang's Sangke district, village resident My Longdy said, adding that 26 homes were quickly repaired with support from the Cambodian Red Cross.

Local authorities refused to request help for his own home and one other, though, because family members belong to the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), My Longdy, a disabled army veteran, told RFA's Khmer Service.

"This makes me very sad," My Longdy said. "I am a fellow Cambodian who worked hard to serve my country until I became an amputee."

"Now, the local authorities are ignoring my difficulties," he said.

'Minor mistake'

Also speaking to RFA, district governor Kim Vannak confirmed the two families had not been helped, but denied that local authorities had deliberately refused them aid.

"This was a minor mistake," Kim Vannak said, adding "[Officials] simply failed to properly register the victims' names."

"I have already advised local authorities to pay attention after natural disasters to make sure the villagers are not disappointed," he said.

In cases of natural disaster, local authorities must always ensure that help from the Red Cross is distributed equally and without favor, Ying Mengly, provincial coordinator for the Cambodian rights groups Adhoc, told RFA.

"Local authorities must pay proper attention to the victims," he said.

It was not immediately clear whether help will now be offered to the affected families to repair their homes.

Political tensions

In March 2015, Battambang authorities were forced to replace thousands of pounds of rotten rice donated to impoverished families in the province by Cambodian Red Cross President Bun Rany, wife of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sun.

Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has ruled the Southeast Asian country for over 30 years.

Political tensions between the CNRP and the CPP have grown worse in recent months, with the government arresting more than a dozen opposition lawmakers including Senator Hong Sok Hour, CNRP media director Meach Sovannara, and Um Sam An, an opposition member of parliament.

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