Villagers claiming to represent more than 1,000 people from seven villages in Pursat province on Wednesday accused a private firm and commune officials of threatening them after they filed a complaint against the firm for allegedly filling in a stream.
The complaint was made to officials in Krakor district’s Anlong Tnot commune in September against the Ratanak Visal company, which villager representatives said subsequently threatened them, accompanied by commune officials.
“Both the company and commune officials threatened to arrest me because they accused me of inciting villagers to thumbprint complaints against them,” said villager representative Hong Kil. Villagers said the threats were made over the last month.
“Then those officials visited villagers door-to-door asking them to find troublemakers,” he added.
“Particularly they questioned villagers as to whether the Sam Rainsy Party is involved or not.”
The stream, which previously flowed downward from the company’s land concession into the villagers’ land, has been completely filled in with soil since May, said Tuol Matak village representative Bun Bunra.
Ratanak Visal could not be contacted, but Anlong Tnot second deputy commune chief Sok Tha denied officials or the firm threatened the villagers.
Instead, officials and company representatives visited villagers’ homes to get people’s reactions and demands following the filling in of the stream.
“How can we threaten those villagers with arrest?” he asked. “They have done nothing illegal.”
Sok Tha added that more than half the villagers interviewed had asked for the stream to be returned to normal.
Villager Kuch Veng claimed the intimidation followed a meeting between commune officials and inhabitants of Chro Loung village, who voted to restore the stream to its natural state for use on their farms.
Krakor district police Chief Bin Vanna said he was not aware of any intimidation.