Protesters heading to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh mansion to seek intervention in a long-running land dispute were beaten and pushed to the ground by security guards as the peaceful march turned violent on Tuesday.
About 100 protesters from Koh Kong province clashed with Daun Penh district security guards in the morning as they neared Mr. Hun Sen’s house.
Protesters said the guards knocked three women unconscious, albeit briefly, and reporters saw the guards kick and punch marchers. However, Kim Vutha, the guards’ chief, denied his men beat anyone and claimed the protesters were faking.
“We just wanted them to change direction, but they pretended to fall down and fall unconscious,” Mr. Vutha said.
“Protesting is their right, but they cannot do whatever they want,” he said. “They must listen to directions from the authorities.”
Most of the protesters had gathered to dispute the seizure of land they say was taken by plantations once owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, since bought by his Thai business partners. About 15 of those who took part in Tuesday’s march are in a similar dispute over another plantation owned by Heng Huy Agriculture. Protests over the land disputes also took place in Phnom Penh in December.
On Tuesday morning, they set off from outside Wat Samakki Raingsey, about 10 km from central Phnom Penh.
By 10 a.m., they were a few hundred meters from Mr. Hun Sen’s residence when they were confronted by more than 50 police officers and security guards from Daun Penh and Chamkar Mon districts.
During the scuffle, Phav Nhoeung, a representative of the protesters, said Nop Vannary, 39, Seng Lin, 51, and Yi Kunthea, 30, briefly fell unconscious.
“Our purpose is to ask for help from Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen] to solve our land issue…but the result was that we were pushed to the ground and beaten,” Ms. Nhoeung said.
“They pushed me…and kicked me in the back, which made me smash against the ground,” Ms. Lin said.
The protesters were sent to Wat Botum Park, where they handed a petition to a government lawyer. “We will be back next week if they do not provide us with a good response,” Ms. Nhoeung said.