Police officers guarding Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Takhmau town clashed with land dispute protestors on Friday, with several villagers claiming they were slightly injured.
Scuffles erupted when 130 rural land protesters gathered at the entrance road that leads to Hun Sen’s heavily guarded residence in Kandal province, rights workers said.
Around 20 police officers told the group to move to a plot of land reserved by the prime minister’s Cabinet for land dispute protestors.
But when the group refused to move, the police hit out with their two-way radios, according to a witness, Hun Sophal, 37, and rights groups.
“I was hit with an ICOM [radio] in the head,” Hun Sophal said.
Hun Sophal said that he and 64 other villagers walked more than 300 km by foot this week from Battambang province’s Bavel district to Hun Sen’s house to seek help in their land dispute with three local businessmen who allegedly grabbed 161 hectares of villagers’ farmland in 2004.
“It has been very difficult, we have no land to farm,” Hun Sophal said.
“I was not against authorities, I was going to leave,” he said, accusing police of aggressive behavior.
Kandal provincial police chief Iev Chamroeun denied any dispute occurred at Hun Sen’s house on Friday.
“I didn’t see anything happening, I just saw them going in and solving the problems,” he said. “I didn’t hear anything else.”
Licadho senior monitor Am Sam Ath said that six land protestors were hit with police radios, including a woman who suffered a nasty bump to her head.
“[The authorities] should have solved this peacefully,” Am Sam Ath said. “Using violence violates the rights of citizens,” he said.
Chan Soveth, chief of monitoring for local rights group Adhoc, said the heavy-handed actions of the police against the villagers constituted a violation of human rights.
“They walked from Battambang just to ask for a fair resolution,” Chan Soveth said.
“Their objective is to meet [Hun Sen] directly to intervene as soon as possible as the rainy season is coming,” he said. “But authorities used force, they were angry and used the ICOM to hit the [protestors] shoulders and heads.”
Hun Sen’s deputy Cabinet chief Lim Leang Se could not be reached for comment on Friday.