50 Families Flee Battambang Village After Violent Attacks

As many as 50 families have fled a Battambang province village following violent attacks on their Kors Kralor district homes in the dead of night last week, police and a local villager said.

Sam Hean, a representative of the 50 families from Dounba commune’s Andong Kantuot Roka village, said by telephone from neighboring Banan district this week that toward 1 am on Feb 15 a large gang had attacked the villagers, beating five people unconscious and burning or tearing down 14 houses.

Sam Hean said he believed the attack resulted from a longstanding land dispute with about 100 other families in the village, which was created in the late 1990s on over 1,000 hectares of land donated to a defecting Khmer Rouge soldier.

Families began leaving the village Feb 15 and as many as 50 have now fled out of fear for their safety, said Sam Hean. Many of the original settlers of the village claim newer arrivals have unfairly occupied their land, he said.

Kors Kralor district police chief Cheung Chhang said Thursday he was investigating the attacks and had made no arrests.

“I suspect it was related to the land dispute,” he said, adding that the attack had nevertheless been carried out by gangs not necessarily party to the land dispute.

Ing Kong Chit, an investigator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Tuesday he also suspected the violence was the result of the land dispute, which was with a group of 100 families led by villager Hun Sengly.

However, Hun Sengly said Thursday the newcomers to the village were not involved in the violence and accused the fleeing villagers of destroying their own homes. “That night they had gangs burn down their own houses to blame us,” he said.

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