Land Protesters Scatter Following Police Threats

More than 100 Kompong Speu province villagers camped in the park opposite the National Assem­bly to protest their land disputes scat­tered on Wednesday evening after police officers loaded their be­longings into a truck and threaten­ed them with eviction, villagers said. The villagers had been pro­testing over land disputes for months with about 500 other protesters from across the country.

In Sopheap, a 40-year-old protester who has been living in the park for two months, said she did not flee with the rest of the group when police moved in at around 6:30 pm.

“I want to stay in the same place,” she said, standing by the truck police had filled with villagers’ mosquito nets, tarpaulins, cooking equip­ment and bottled water. “I strongly refuse to leave this land,” she said.

Police were stationed at the peri­meter of the park on Wednes­day, but the situation became tense after Seng Sovannara, deputy governor of Daun Penh district, announced to reporters that the villagers living in the park had until noon on Fri­day to leave. “If they refuse to go, we will use the administration to bring them out,” he said.

Seng Sovannara was previously head of the pro-CPP Pagoda Child­ren, Intelligentsia and Stud­ents As­sociation, otherwise known as the Pagoda Boys.

Staunch supporters of Prime Min­ister Hun Sen and previously reci­pients of government funding, the Pagoda Boys have been ac­cused of responding violently to an­ti-government protests.

During the day, the Kompong Speu villagers were offered compensation for their land by provincial officials who had come to the park, which the protesters refused.

Under the offered compensation, each of the 135 protesters from the province’s Phnom Sruoch district would receive plots of land in the prov­ince measuring 25 meters by 100 meters, said Eang Ol, deputy prov­­incial police chief, who was at the park in the morning.

“We have paved the place for them already,” he said. “It is much more than the protesters’ families have.”

When villagers balked at the offer, police told them they would be removed, villagers said.

“They told us to get in the truck and that they would solve the problem when we get home, but we want them to solve the problem here, now,” In Sopheap said.

(Additional reporting by Chhim Sopheark)





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