Protesting disabled veterans head home

More than 100 disabled veterans agreed yesterday to end their protest in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh home after officials promised to resolve their social land concession dispute in Kratie province’s Snuol district, a rights worker said.

“This morning some of [the protesters] agreed with officials who said they were from the Environment Ministry and the prime minister’s cabinet, and who promised to solve their problem on Thursday,” said Chan Soveth, monitor for local rights group Adhoc.

However, Mr Soveth said, police briefly detained five representatives of the veterans-who number some 700 families and are asking for land they say the government promised them in 2008-for an alleged traffic violation.

“Some of the veterans did not believe the officials, and five of these men were threatened and arrested on their way home,” Mr Soveth said, adding that the arrests were an attempt to intimidate the representatives.

Mr Leangse, deputy chief of the premier’s Cabinet, could not be reached for comment yesterday, but on Monday he said the concession awaits the approval of the Environment Ministry.

Environment Ministry spokesman Sem Saroeun said yesterday he did not know if anyone in his ministry had approached the protesters. He declined to comment further, saying he was unaware of the protection status of the requested concession land. He referred comments to Chay Samith, director of the ministry’s Conservation Department, who could not be reached yesterday.

Touch Naruth, municipal police chief, said he knew nothing of any intimidation of protesters. He said the police arrested the five representatives yesterday for a traffic violation.

“We stopped the [international organization] plate car because the car had no legal document,” Mr Naruth said.

The five representatives have since been released, but not the car, according to veterans interviewed yesterday.


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