Protesters, Police Settle Clash

A tense dispute between police and land protesters was settled Tuesday with the protesters agreeing to clear out of the park in front of the National Assembly for Khmer New Year and stay in a nearby wat.

Meanwhile, King Norodom Sihanouk has sent a letter to co-Minister of Interior Sar Kheng asking him to investigate and solve several cases of land grabbing. The King’s request follows his meeting last weekend with opposition leader Sam Rainsy and three farmers who said hundreds of residents have had their land illegally taken from them.

The people, all from the countryside, have been camped in front of the National Assembly for weeks. Local authorities said they wanted the families out of the park for the New Year.

“We don’t want people to see anarchy in the park,” said Pok Kosal, deputy governor for Don Penh district. “We want the park to be clean for the New Year.”

Pok Kosal suggested the families stay in the school at Wat Botum, which will be closed over the holidays.

The families said they did not want to move into the wat be­cause they would not be able to get food from NGOs and people passing by. Kek Galabru, founder of the human rights group Lica­dho, said she would supply the protesters with food until they could return to the park.

They will be permitted back into the park on Sunday, Pok Kosal said.

Korm Sopha, who represents several families in a Kompong Speu land dispute, said police threatened to arrest him before Kek Galabru intervened. “We are not getting any help from the government,” he said.

Chum Kanal, head of the government’s land dispute committee, said he just returned from a one-week investigation of land disputes in five provinces. He said the government is trying to solve the cases and will be working on them after the New Year.

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