Dramatic new video footage of the January 18 Kratie province land dispute shooting has been released on the Internet, depicting TTY rubber company security guards opening fire on a crowd of unarmed villagers. The 48-second video, recorded by a villager on a mobile telephone and uploaded on Jan. 21 by local rights group Licadho on the website YouTube, shows several hundred villagers in Snuol district approaching TTY’s bulldozers to demand that workers stop clearing their cassava farms.
The grainy and shaky footage shows a group of villagers backing out and shouting in panic as a guard, who is standing atop a bulldozer’s steering cabin with another guard, aims an AK-47 assault rifle on the crowd below and opens fire.
After firing four shots, both guards climb down and run past the camera. The gunman walks away and then fires another three shots into the crowd, who are some 20 meters away, before letting off a fully automatic burst of shots in their direction.
One woman was grazed by a bullet and three men were seriously injured, with one still in critical condition in a hospital in Vietnam after suffering bullet wounds in both thighs and his hand.
One week after the incident none of the company’s guards – who were identified as hired RCAF soldiers by one provincial police official – have been arrested.
Kratie province deputy military police commander Mao Rainny said yesterday that on Monday Kratie Provincial Court summoned three TTY security guards, who are all in their 30s, for their involvement in the incident.
“We are looking for these guys following the court order,” he said. “I could not say if they are suspects. It’s the process of the prosecutor.”
Mr. Rainny added that police had watched the video, which had been viewed on YouTube more than 1,300 times as of deadline yesterday.
Kratie Provincial Court Prosecutor Chat Soreaksmey declined to comment other than to say she had visited the scene of the incident on Jan. 18 before turning the case over to Deputy Prosecutor Hak Hoin.
Mr. Hoin could not be reached for comment.
New photos obtained yesterday also appear to show provincial military police officers at the scene of the protestors’ shooting moments before the guards open fire on the crowd.
Villager Chom Chenda said local police and military police were present during the shooting. Asked why police and military police did not apprehend the gunmen, Mr. Rainny said that only two of his officers were near the incident and did not see it. “They were far away from the scene,” he said.
Licadho technical supervisor Am Sam Ath said authorities could easily identify and apprehend TTY’ guards, and questioned why the court had not ordered a warrant for their arrests.
“It’s a land concession case, so I think the authorities hesitate to make arrests right after the incident took place, since it involves powerful people” who own TTY company, he said. “If they are willing it’s not hard” to arrest the gunmen.
“If they are not arrested, it shows a culture of impunity and other companies can copy this practice,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
The dispute in Pi Thnou commune has pitted several hundred poor families against TTY, a politically well-connect company with a 9,800-hectare concession in the area that according to villagers has cleared 600 hectare of their land.
Provincial authorities said, in the aftermath of the shooting, they would cut land from TTY’s concessions and the company said it would give the villagers about 800 hectares.
TTY Director General Na Marady, who is also an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said the company had begun “processing the problem” of allocating land to the villagers yesterday. Asked if TTY would compensate the victims of the shooting by its guards, he said, “My lawyer will process this problem.”