Police Burned in Fight With Villagers Over Land

A violent confrontation between po­lice and villagers over disputed land has left two officers seriously in­jured with severe burns and nine people arrested and charged with at­tempted murder, authorities in Pai­lin municipality said Thursday.

Five other officers received minor in­juries, including burns, during a fra­cas Wednesday in Pailin’s Stung Trang district when a 50-strong force of municipal police and mili­tary police attempted to execute an eviction order against 10 families in Sa­la Krao commune, Pailin Police Com­­­­­missioner Lay Chan Chhay said.

According to Lay Chan Chhay, the villagers were prepared for po­lice and had armed themselves with rocks, sticks, knives and gasoline, which they used to burn his officers.

“The villagers had prepared themselves…to attack us when we arrived in the area to implement the municipality’s directive to move them,” dep­uty municipal police chief Pha Thea said. “Nine attackers, including a wo­man, were arrested and are detain­ed at the municipal police headquarters. They will be sent to court to­morrow charged with attempted mur­der,” he said.

Sala Krao Deputy District Police Chief Suos Krit and Khim Cham­roeun, a military police officer, were hit on the head and legs with stones and sticks and then burned by gasoline during the melee, Pha Thea said. Both men are being treated at Pailin Referral Hospital.

“It is the first time our police and military police officers were attacked like this,” he added.

Pailin municipality had ordered the removal of the 10 families from a one-hectare site in the district, which is to be used to construct a new market, officials said.

Say Suyhun, a monitor for local rights group Human Rights Vigil­ance of Cambodia, said the incident would be investigated to determine whether police or villagers were res­ponsible for starting the violence.

Reports indicate that the villagers were ready and prepared to resist their forced expulsion, he said.

Authorities in Battambang prov­ince’s Bavel district said Thursday that 2,000 landless villagers from Battambang, Kompong Cham, Prey Veng, Kompong Chhnang, Kan­dal and Banteay Meanchey provinces had cleared and claimed ownership of hundreds of hectares of land in the district.

Bavel district governor Tim Sar­eth said the villagers were tricked into believing they had legally purchased the land from two military officials, who sold individual 40-meter-by-40-meter plots for $5 each.

District police said the villagers are refusing to leave and provincial authorities are working on plans to remove them.




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