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.”