It has been more than a decade since 64-year old Khorn Khorn lost three hectares of land to a close ally of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The controversial senator Ly Yong Phat wanted the holding to expand a sugarcane plantation in Kampong Speu province.
At her house in Sre Chrab village, about 10 kilometers from the land she lost, the mother of seven recounts how the loss affected her life: she couldn’t find work or make ends meet, her children dropped out of school, and she now has ever-growing debt, amounting to about $6,000, a substantial sum in a nation where the average annual income is $1,680, according to 2019 government statistics.
“Before I lost the land, I had never been in debt,” Khorn Khorn said in an interview with VOA Khmer last week. “I am afraid that I could not pay it. I don’t know whether my son will be able to pay this month or not,” she said. “I am very concerned every day.”