A rights worker claimed that soldiers from RCAF’s Brigade 31 on Saturday threatened nearly 200 villagers from Kampot province who were protesting outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmau town over being evicted from their homes.
The villagers began arriving at Hun Sen’s home Wednesday evening from Chey Sezna village, near the border between Kampot and Kompong Speu provinces, after the village was sealed off June 22 by Brigade 31 soldiers because of a conflict that arose from the eviction.
Am Sam Ath, a monitor for local rights group Licadho, claimed the soldiers coerced all but 30 of the villagers into leaving the pagoda outside the prime minister’s home.
“Most of the villagers left the pagoda for their relatives [homes] after they were threatened to move back to the village from the commander of Brigade 31,” said Am Sam Ath.
“The 30 villagers who are left have no place to go,” Am Sam Ath added.
Brigade 31 commander Srun Saroeun said he and his troops were only at the pagoda for observation.
“I went there to make clear what is happening,” he said. “I did not threaten or fight.”
He added that he believes that a number of the protesters had no right to be there because they were not actually Chey Sezna residents, or had already received compensation for their land.
Try Ya, 39, a Chey Sezna villager with a wife and four young children, said going back to the village is not an option.
“I won’t move back to Chey Sezna because it is full of the military,” he said.
Hun Sen cabinet members have been taking down complaints from the villagers, said Kim Keat, 39, who also came to the pagoda with his family. Now they are waiting for a response, he said.
Lim Leng Se, a deputy cabinet chief for Hun Sen, could not be reached for comment.