A group of armed men in bodyguard uniforms threatened approximately 60 Mondolkiri province ethnic minority villagers and three NGO workers on Sunday over a land dispute, and kicked a human rights worker in the stomach, the NGO officials alleged Tuesday.
Em Veasna, an activist with the NGO Human Rights Vigilance of Cambodia, claimed that eight uniformed men with three AK-47s and a pistol had threatened their lives in Sen Monorom district’s Romonear commune, warning them to “be careful or die.”
Hong Bun Phal, an activist with the little-known Cambodian Independent Anti-Corruption Committee, claimed the men had torn down and burned 27 recently built homes on land claimed by both villagers and a senior government official. The homes were allegedly destroyed the night before the incident.
The standoff took place when Hong Bun Phal began photographing the armed men aiming guns at the villagers the next morning, he said.
“I was kicked in the stomach and they pointed the pistol and AKs at me and the two other activists,” Hong Bun Phal said.
“They forced me to hand over my camera…. I asked them to take only the roll of film, but they took it all.”
Local rights group Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Sam Sarin said the land has been disputed since at least 2003.
Mondolkiri Governor Lay Sokha said he had not heard about the alleged incident.
“Officials from local organizations always instigate people to protest against authorities and development in this province,” the governor added.