R’kiri Protester Threatened, Villagers Claim

Villagers in Ratanakkiri prov­in­ce’s O’Yadaw district have alleg­ed that a deputy commune chief threat­­ened to have a protester kill­ed during a demonstration on Feb 11.

The demonstration had been conducted by about 300 people, who refuse to relinquish ownership of disputed forests and farmland, they said.

Meas Khoeun, Ratanakkiri prov­ince education officer for local rights group Adhoc, said on Wed­nes­day that Romann Phan, Pateh commune deputy chief, pub­licly announced that he could pay someone approximately $125 to kill protester Romann Phorn.

The dispute, which began in 2004, involves approximately 500 hectares of land claimed by an un­named buyer.

A variety of coercive methods have allegedly been used to force villagers to fingerprint documents they did not understand at that time, according to a Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project report.

“We will file a complaint to the court about Romann Phan’s threat to kill Romann Phorn,” Protester Ro Cham Fan said.

Ro Cham Fan said that villagers have felt intimidated since the al­leged threat and subsequent questioning of seven protesters by a military police officer on Tuesday.

“Yesterday seven villagers were called to meet the military police official at his house, and he asked them to stop protesting against the company,” Meas Khoeun said.

“This is a threat against the villagers,” he said.

O’Yadaw district police Chief Mao Sann said he did not know about the alleged death threat or in­timidation.

“If it happened my officials would report it to me,” Mao Sann said.

District Governor Heng Bun­than could not be reached Wednesday or Thursday.

O’Yadaw district military police commander Sok Min confirmed that the villagers were questioned but said he knew nothing of the alleged shooting threat.

“We invited the villagers to see us and allowed them to clarify the purpose of their protest,” Sok Min said. “We just asked them what their demands are. We do not threat­en them or force them.”


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