Police Force Out Koh Kong Protesters: Villagers

Police on Monday removed dozens of Koh Kong villagers from a pagoda near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmau town home that were looking for help with a long-running land dispute, villagers and rights workers claimed.

Villager representative An Haiya, 36, said police ordered the group out of Prek Samroang pa­goda, where they had been staying overnight after protesting in front of Hun Sen’s home.

“Eight police officers and two military police officers banned us not to stay there anymore,” An Haiya said.

However, Kandal provincial police chief Iev Chamroeun denied that officers told the protesters to leave the pagoda Monday.

“No one told them to leave. Maybe their food could not last long,” Iev Chamroeun said.

The villagers accuse CPP ty­coon Senator Ly Yong Phat of illegally taking about 4,000 hectares of land, said Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with the rights group Licadho.

The villagers filed a complaint against Ly Young Phat’s company, Koh Kong Sugar Industry, with the Kong Kong Provincial Court in Feb 2007, said Soung Sophea, an attorney at the NGO Community Legal Education Center.

But the villagers felt they were getting little response from the court, Soung Sophea said, so they banded together to ask Hun Sen for intervention.

“It was the last choice that villagers came to depend on Sam­dech Techo,” Am Sam Ath said. “They were hopeless concerning local authorities.”

The villagers walked about 12 km from the Phnom Penh office of rights group Adhoc to Hun Sen’s house Saturday. They protested in front of Hun Sen’s house Saturday and Sunday before being allegedly ordered out Monday.

Now, “they have become even more hopeless and don’t know whom to depend on,” Am Sam Ath said.

Ly Yong Phat could not be contacted for comment.

Koh Kong provincial court Director Ing Sarun said Monday that the investigation into the dispute had been postponed because no one appeared during 2007 and 2008 court dates.

“I have summoned all of them, and no one came,” Ing Sarun said.

Hun Sen’s deputy cabinet chief Lim Leang Se, who is in charge of resolving land disputes, said the villagers’ complaints have been received and would be sent on to the National Authority for the Resolution for Land Disputes and provincial officials.

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