Two days of rampaging against officials in the Dangkao district on the outskirts of Phnom Penh were followed by relative calm this weekend, though the area remains tense over a business deal gone bad, authorities said.
On Thursday, Kok Roka villagers used hammers and axes to destroy five houses, including those of their commune chief, two chief’s deputies and two houses owned by a commune official, said San Sythann, district bureau chief. The villagers burned the timber in a nearby rice field, and also burned one fruit plantation, he said. San Sythann said the victims will file complaints in Phnom Penh Municipal Court against 200 villagers.
“The angry villagers have calmed down today, but we could not negotiate with them, because they want only dollars,” he said.
On Wednesday villagers tore down the commune headquarters and a hospital.
A Chinese businessman had offered to pay more than $100,000 for 250 acres of communal wetlands, said Mom Saveth, Dangkao district police chief. The businessman said he wanted to use the land to raise ducks, Mom Saveth said. Commune Chief Yen Tok told the commune’s 1,106 families every family would get $113 from the deal. The villagers became enraged when Yen Tok told them later that the businessman had backed out.
They have not been appeased by an offer to return the 250 acres, San Sythann said.
“The villagers did not want to take the wetland at all, they only want the $113,” he said.
Some villagers demand the commune chief return $10,000 deposited by the businessman to rebuild the destroyed commune headquarters, Mom Saveth said. But the $10,000 was only for paperwork, San Sythann said.