Rights Groups Condemn Preah Vihear Killings

Human rights groups on Nov 16 condemned the killing by police of two villagers during a violent eviction of hundreds of people living near Preah Vihear temple.

Oeun Hen, 31, and Thoeun Chem, 29, were shot and killed Nov 15 by police during the eviction of 317 families living in Choam Ksan district’s Occheuteal protected forest, according to a statement issued by local rights group Licadho.

“The circumstances of Oeun Hen’s shooting are unclear but, according to witnesses, Thoeun Chem was shot in the chest when she protested against the arrest of her husband,” the Licadho statement said.

“Within an hour or two of Oeun Hen’s death, his family were instructed by authorities to quickly cremate his body near the eviction site,” according to the statement.

“[T]he family of Thoeun Chem—who died in a village health clinic a few hours after being shot—was forced to quickly bury her body near a pagoda,” the statement added.

Six others were injured during the eviction—five of them shot and one beaten unconscious—and at least 11 people have been arrested, Licadho said.

Preah Vihear’s provincial Deputy Governor Meas Savoeun was also arrested Wednesday for allegedly encouraging villagers to relocate to Occheuteal while two Japanese tourists were briefly detained on Wednesday by the protesting villagers who demanded the release of the deputy governor in return for the release of the tourists.

The two Japanese people were released unharmed after being held for two hours, government officials said. However, the Japanese Embas­sy has denied that any of its nationals were involved in the incident.

The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee also issued a statement Nov 15 condemning the killings and claiming that police and military police burned down the homes of the evicted villagers.

Thun Saray, president of rights group Adhoc and chairman of CHRAC, said the villagers should have been moved for the sake of preserving Preah Vihear temple, but the violence used was both wrong and illegal.

“The law stipulates clearly that they should suspend violence and find another solution first,” he said.

Sam Saroeun, deputy bureau chief for the province’s land management department, said that authorities are now in the process of sending the 317 families from the disputed site, who come from locations throughout the country, back to their home towns.

“If anyone migrated from Kom­pong Cham province, the trucks will take them to Kompong Cham,” he said.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, said that authorities were right to evict the villagers, but no villagers should have been shot.

“Cracking down without killing and injuring people is alright, but not shooting people,” he said.


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