Villager Nearly Sets Himself Ablaze in Protest

Security guards and passers-by stopped an elderly man from burning himself to death in front of the National Assembly on Fri­day morning in apparently protest at the loss of his land, police and wit­nesses said Sunday.

Around 9 am, Mom Sovann, 66, doused himself in gasoline, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a hand­written message appealing for help from CPP leaders Chea Sim and Heng Samrin and Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to a nearby street vendor who de­clined to give her name.

Security guards and drivers smelled gasoline as Mom So­vann, from Kandal province, made his way into the front parking area at the Assembly, and stopped him before he could set fire to himself, Chaktomuk commune police chief Chea Sothy said.

It was Mom Sovann’s second at­tempted suicide, he added.

“Last month, this man tried to climb up Preah Ang Dongka tow­er in front of the Royal Palace to commit suicide, but our policemen stopped him in time,” Chea So­thy said.

On Friday Mom Sovann was es­corted into National Assembly Pres­ident Heng Samrin’s cabinet of­fice for questioning around 9:20 am, and was then taken to Chak­tomuk police station before being sent back to his Kandal province vil­lage around 10:30 am, Chea Sothy said.

Takhmau district deputy governor Chum Socheat said the court ruled against Mom Sovann in a land dispute case some time ago, de­priving him of his livelihood as a farmer.

Mom Sovann was carrying documents related to that court case on Friday, Chea Sothy said.

Mom Sovann lost his two sons, both government soldiers, in the 1980s, and then lost his land, leaving him with no way to support himself, Chea Sothy added.

“We tried to educate him and dis­courage him from committing suicide.”

On November 17, 2004, another man, Ouk Vorn, burned himself to death near Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence, but his death remains shrouded in mystery.

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