One Day After Siem Reap Shootings, Few Answers

One man was still missing and presumed dead Monday, a day after around 95 police and military police reportedly opened fire on a group of 300 farmers involved in a land conflict in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kreng district, according to a rights group official.

Mean Morng, a 27-year-old farmer, who witnesses say was shot in the stomach and died, was still missing following Sunday’s clash, said Adhoc Provincial Coordinator Mao Yin, while three others who were missing Sunday had been found and checked into Siem Reap municipal referral hospital with serious injuries.

Luon Meat, 29, was shot in both thighs; his uncle, 46-year-old Luon Vinh, suffered a serious knee injury; and Tuy Khom, 33, was injured in the right ear and temple, Mao Yin said.

Siem Reap authorities claim that while carrying out a court-ordered intervention, police fired their guns when they faced hundreds of Chi Kreng district villagers carrying machetes and wooden sticks. The villagers say police opened fire on them while they were going to work on their rice fields in Anlong Samnor commune and denied that they were wielding weapons.

Ti Sovanthal, Siem Reap Municipal Court prosecutor, said nine of the 44 villagers detained Sunday following the dispute had been arrested and charged Monday with stealing rice from the disputed land. He said the suspects would appear in Siem Reap Municipal Court today.

“Nine villagers were arrested and charged with rice robbery…because nobody is allowed to farm on the disputed land,” he said Monday.

The incident is the latest in an ongoing land dispute between authorities and around 200 families in Anlong Samnor commune over 475 hectares of land, which the villagers claim is theirs.

The villagers accuse authorities, including Chi Kreng district Governor Kao Sophoan, of plotting to secretly sell the land, which villagers have been farming since 1981.

The dispute escalated in January when about 300 villagers involved in the dispute protested and burned tires for almost three weeks outside the Siem Reap municipal courthouse, calling for the release of two village representatives and a journalist, claiming that they were wrongly jailed. The men were eventually released on bail by order of the Appeal Court on Jan 30.Keo Sophoan, who has previously denied the villagers’ accusations, declined Monday to comment on the escalation in the dispute .

SRP lawmaker Ke Sovannroth said Monday that the opposition party had sent a letter to National Assembly President Heng Samrin and Interior Minister Sar Kheng calling for an investigation into the police violence.

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