Traditional Miners Accuse Soldier of Violence, Intimidation

Narly 450 artisanal miners in Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district filed complaints with the provincial mining department and rights group Adhoc this week alleging that a senior RCAF commander beat and intimidated miners as they searched for gold, officials and a rights worker said yesterday.

The miners accuse Chan Sopheaktra, an RCAF commander from the district’s Phnom Dek area, and unnamed accomplices of repeatedly using violence against miners working in the nearby Prey Tortoeng exploration site, according to provincial Adhoc coordinator Hor Neath.

A petition affixed with the thumbprints of 435 traditional miners from the district’s Romtom and Romany communes was handed to Adhoc on Tuesday, Mr Neath said.

“The alleged violent attacks prove the critical human rights abuses perpetrated by RCAF soldiers against unarmed traditional gold miners,” he said.

The miners claim the attacks started last May, but miners decided to complain after two recent incidents, Mr Neath said.

On Nov 17, 31-year-old Im Kong was badly beaten while digging soil to sift for gold, he said, while Doem Tin, 27, was attacked by RCAF soldiers four days later.

Contact information for Mr Sopheaktra and his unit could not be obtained yesterday.

Sam Leang Ny, director of the provincial department of mines, industry and energy and who received a similar complaint from the miners on Monday, said villagers had asked his department to take legal action over the alleged human rights abuses and attacks committed by RCAF soldiers based in the area.

District police chief Say Deth said by phone yesterday that he had never heard any reports of violence committed by military personnel in his jurisdiction. The only time police or soldiers would visit the sites would be to educate the miners, he said.

“Very often, police as well as [RCAF] military soldiers visit the gold mining sites educating traditional miners not to use banned chemicals,” he said.

 

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