Police in Kompong Cham province’s Chamkar Leu district set up a series of roadblocks to prevent about 80 villagers from protesting in front of the provincial courthouse over a land dispute, human rights workers and villagers said Thursday.
According to villagers, three small vans carried villagers from Stung Trang district’s Dang Kdar commune so they could protest in front of the court following accusations from the local developer, Green Co, that village representatives had caused damage to property and given fake fingerprints on their complaint file to the provincial court.
Touch Meng Huot, a villager from the Chamkar Leu district, said villagers were “unsuccessful in their attempt to pass by the road blockades when they were in Chamkar Leu district.”
“They have decided to assemble in Speu commune in Chamkar Leu district,” he said, adding that villagers decided to stop and await their representatives on the other side of the roadblocks.”
Reached by telephone Thursday, Chamkar Leu district police chief Touch Meng confirmed that the police had stopped villagers from gaining access to the provincial court.
“How can I let them go to cause problems in front of the courthouse,” he said.
Provincial Police Chief Nuon Samin could not be reached for comment.
One village representative, Oeng Phalkun, who was questioned at the courthouse Thurs-
day, said that more than 1,000 fingerprints were made in a complaint filed with the provincial authorities and the National Assembly in March, seeking for intervention after more than 1,000 hectares of land were being cleared by the local firm.
Oeng Phalkun explained that the dispute had been going on since 2005 with Green Co being the latest company to invest in developing the contested land.
“I think that there are senior and powerful officials standing behind this case, which is why police stopped villagers from traveling for demanding their land at the court house,” he said.
Thong Kdar, the Dang Kdar commune chief, said that he had seen no evidence of violence
or damaged property by the villagers.
“Hundreds of families are not willing to sell their land,” he said. “They claimed that they do not have land elsewhere.”