Protesting Villagers Barricade National Road 48

More than 100 villagers took their long-running land dispute with CPP Senator and tycoon Ly Yong Phat to the streets once again, barricading National Road 48 in Koh Kong province for four hours Monday morning.

Villagers said they sent women and children to the front of the 125-strong human blockade, in the hopes of deterring violence with authorities. The villagers blocked the same stretch of road in October, which prompted the Ministry of Interior to intercede.

Village representative An Haiya said around 40 armed police, military police, and RCAF soldiers pushed villagers off the road in Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Loeu commune so cars could pass.

One woman in her 60s received 25 stitches in her leg after being struck with a piece of wood used to block the road as the barricade was being removed by the authorities, An Haiya and a human rights investigator said.

The protest ended when Nuth Sa An, a Secretary of State at the Ministry of Interior, called and promised to meet with the villagers, An Haiya added.

At issue are 5,000 hectares of disputed land, which Ly Yong Phat has turned into a sugarcane plantation. Some villagers accepted compensation for their land, but 230 families say they were never offered payment and want Ly Yong Phat to return about 2,000 hectares to them so they can farm, An Haiya said.

An Haiya said some villagers are going hungry because their livestock has been seized and they have no land to farm. RCAF soldiers are also demanding $42.50 a head for the release of seized cows that wander onto the plantation, he added.

Nuth Sa An confirmed that he had called protestors Monday.

“I phoned to ask the brothers and sisters to open the road for traffic,” he said, vowing to listen to the villager complaints.

He and Koh Kong provincial police chief Sam Khitveang both said they had no knowledge of cattle being seized from the villagers.

Ly Yong Phat could not be reached for comment Monday.

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