Protesters Seek NGO Help After Grenade Attack

Eight villagers whose protest last weekend against land and timber giant Pheapimex Co Ltd was the target of a grenade attack arrived in Phnom Penh on Tues­day seeking NGO help, villagers and NGO workers said.

One of the villagers, Um Huot, 60, said locals in Pursat province’s Krakor district and Kompong Chhnang province’s Baribor district signed a petition following reports that police are looking to arrest two men accused of inciting villagers to obstruct the company.

“I knew that the claims made by police officials referred to myself…

and my colleague Loek Phuong, aged 71, because police officials consider us ringleaders,” Um Huot said. He said villagers had organized independently out of concern for the forest.

The eight also requested help to stop Pheapimex’s plans to develop a more-than 315,000 hectare land concession into a eucalyptus plantation, he said.

Russell Peterson, representative of NGO Forum on Cambod­ia, said Tuesday afternoon that his staff is discussing ways to help the villagers.“Villagers in Cambodia rely on their access to the forest to supplement their meager livings,” he said.

Pursat community forest group members, including those wound­ed in the grenade attack,echoed Peter­son’s re­marks.

The wounded, who remained in Preah Bat Norodom Sihanouk hospital in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, said they would continue to protest Pheapimex’ plans. “I am scared, but I have no choice, so I will continue to fight for the forest,” said Tim Thon, 41, who has shrapnel embedded in her leg.

“The forest helps the poor villagers very much,” she said Mon­day. She and others said they were encouraged by the support from NGOs and the Royal Family.

King Norodom Sihamoni, re­tired King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath do­nated supplies and $100 to each of six families of the injured, they said.

 

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