Two men were shot and injured when about 60 villagers stormed the Fisheries Administration office in Takeo province’s Borei Cholsar district Wednesday in an attempt to reclaim a confiscated tractor, officials and human rights workers said.
Puoch Tang, 45, and Mang San, 25, from Borei Cholsar commune, were both shot in the arm after fisheries officer Khin Veng allegedly opened fire on the crowd with an AK-47 assault rifle, according to eye witness Yim Lang, 42. The two men were shot when they, together with a group of villagers, where pushing the tractor away from the Fisheries Administration building, he added.
Villagers say fisheries authorities are denying them the right to farm on about 50 hectares of land in neighboring Kompong Trasaing commune, along the border with Vietnam, where they say they have been farming during the dry season since 1992.
Fishery administration officials confiscated the tractor Wednesday morning saying that the land is off limits because it is flooded forest, Yim Lang said.
The area does flood in the rainy season, Yim Lang admitted, but he said there is no forest.
Takeo Provincial Governor Srey Bin and provincial court Director Tith Sothy confirmed they had received complaints about the shooting and are investigating the incident.
“I did accept the complaint and the shooting did truly happen, but I can’t provide more detail yet, as I have not yet conducted an investigation,” Srey Bin said.
Tith Sothy, who visited the injured men in the hospital Thursday morning, said that Khin Veng has fled but that he would investigate the case.
“Such shooting is unlawful, even though somebody claimed it was self-defense, because the villagers were unarmed,” he said.
Neither provincial fisheries director Kim Sarith nor Khin Veng could be reached for comment Thursday.