NGO Director Claims Visit to Border Blocked

An NGO director claimed Sunday that authorities in Svay Rieng province blocked a group he was leading from visiting homes they had rebuilt near the Vietnamese border in Romeas Hek district.

Chea Nick, director of Slave Khmer, a humanitarian organization, said that he and about 60 others planned to visit the three houses —for which the NGO had built new walls and roofs—in Doung commune on Sunday afternoon.

“Our intention was to go and inaugurate three houses that we sponsored,” he said.

On the way to the homes, hundreds of villagers joined his group, thinking that he was leading them to visit a disputed border area, Mr. Nick said.

“They thought we were a political party and wanted to see the border,” he said.

Mr. Nick acknowledged that some of his staffers had joined a CNRP-led visit to a disputed border area in the province’s Kompong Ro district last week, but insisted that Sunday’s trip was apolitical.

Upon arriving in Doung commune, he said, about 200 police, military police and soldiers blocked the group from reaching the homes. Fifteen people were eventually allowed through, he said.

“This is Cambodian land and they allowed only 15 people to go there,” he said. “If the land did not belong to us, that would have been OK.”

Romeas Hek district Governor Penh Phea said authorities were deployed to ensure the group’s security, not to stop people from visiting the homes, which he said were located in a border area that had not been properly demarcated.

“We did not stop them and our forces went there in order to give them security,” he said.

“I was afraid there might be violence,” he added. “When there are many people, Vietnam will have suspicions. I was afraid they would enter Vietnam’s territory and cause problems.”

Earlier this month, Interior Minister Sar Kheng held a meeting in Phnom Penh with officials from border provinces, telling them to remain vigilant amid a campaign by the opposition to expose Vietnamese encroachments.

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