Prime Minister Hun Sen personally attended a mourning ceremony in Phnom Penh yesterday for a student volunteer in his land-titling program who was killed Wednesday by a falling tree in Kratie province’s Broma village, the scene of a violent eviction in May.
Chan Marady—one of some 2,000 student volunteers Mr. Hun Sen has sent out across the country as part of an ambitious land-titling program—died in Broma from a falling tree during a rainstorm.
Chan Marady’s mother, Chhum Panharot, said that Mr. Hun Sen paid for the ceremony and the transport of her son’s body from Kratie, and donated an additional $20,000 to the family.
“I am very sad because I am left with only one son,” she said. “My husband died when he was 37 years old from a disease.”
Broma village has remained in the headlines since hundreds of troops and police were deployed there in May to evict hundreds of villagers who were locked in a land dispute with a nearby rubber plantation. Alongside the government’s violent eviction of Broma, government forces shot dead a 14-year-old girl, Heng Chantha, who was hiding beneath her stilt house when they raided the village firing their weapons. Government officials at all levels have said there is no need to investigate the killing of the teenager, which they say was a simple “accident.”
Approximately 100 people attended the ceremony inside Ms. Panharot’s Tuol Kok district house yesterday, including some 50 of Chan Marady’s fellow student volunteers.
Keo Sodaron, who led Chan Marady’s group in Broma, said a violent storm felled the tree that killed him.
“We all heard the tree crack before it fell down, but Marady did not escape because he probably panicked,” Mr. Sodaron said.
He said Chan Marady crouched, was struck in the back of the neck, and died instantly. Mr. Sodaron remembered him as a quiet but hard working member of the volunteers.
Mr. Hun Sen launched his land-titling program in May, ostensibly to help prevent future land disputes and provide titles to people living inside economic land concessions or on state land.
On October 1, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted 14 people—including Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando—for leading or joining a so-called secessionist movement in Broma village, sentencing them to jail terms of between 10 months and 30 years. Several human rights groups have accused the government of engineering the claims of secession in Broma to justify the eviction in May.