Five Villagers Face Questions Over Protest

The provincial court in Kom­pong Speu has called five villagers to the court to answer ac­cusations that they damaged dump trucks during an Aug 14 demonstration in Chbar Mon district, a human rights official said Sunday.

The five villagers allegedly were part of a group of 300 protesters who demonstrated against the filling of a lake and who allegedly damaged several dump trucks that were filling the lake with dirt.

Two villagers and three military policemen were injured in the ensuing melee.

Provincial court officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday. On Thursday, human rights investigators alleged that Kom­pong Speu provincial police were ordered to block a group of villagers from traveling to Phnom Penh to lodge complaints over plans to fill in a provincial lake that is being resisted by hundreds of local families.

Sixteen villagers, acting as representatives for residents in seven villages in the district, were stopped in their vehicle as they attempted to travel to Phnom Penh on Thursday to lodge complaints with local human rights group Adhoc.

Police manning the checkpoint said they were under orders from the provincial governor, rights workers said.

“The police officers said they had received orders from the provincial governor to stop the car,” Chan Soveth, deputy chief of Adhoc’s Monitoring Unit, said  Thurs­day.

Chan Soveth said the villagers wanted Adhoc’s help in finding lawyers for three villagers who have been summoned to appear in court today over their role in the protests. “The villagers are afraid, and they want us to find them lawyers,” he said.

Kompong Speu Governor Ou Bun denied Thursday that he ordered the villagers be stopped. He accused Adhoc workers of siding with the villagers and encouraging them to talk with reporters about the issue.

“It is not fair. They [Adhoc] turn democracy to anarchy,” Ou Bun said.

“Adhoc is very biased toward the villagers. The villagers are not exactly speaking the truth,” he added.

“It is illegal for the villagers to oppose the landlords filling [the lake] in with land because they have complied with the law,” Ou Bun added.

Locals say the lake is essential for drainage from their surrounding farmland and they are de­manding that a drainage canal be dug before the lake is filled.


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