Villagers in Land Dispute Report Attack by Guard

Two residents in the midst of a long land dispute in Ratanakkiri province filed a complaint Monday against a soldier who guards the disputed property, claiming he shot at them while passing through their village Saturday night.

Brong Meng, 32, of Lumphat district’s Batang commune, said he was sleeping in a hammock outside his home when the man, ac-companied by two other soldiers, fired two shots. The pistol misfired both times, Brong Meng claimed, and he was unharmed.

“If the bullets [had fired properly], I must be dead,” Brong Meng said Monday, adding that he filed a complaint with district police ag-ainst the soldier.

Thang Ry, 29, said he heard gun-fire from the soldiers’ direction as he drove his wife, mother and two children on a motorcycle in the village. No one was injured.

Both men said the shooting likely stemmed from the villagers’ land dispute with the DM Group, a company claiming 200 hectares of farmland for a rubber plantation and using several RCAF soldiers as security guards.

DM Group and villagers have clashed before, resulting in two village representatives’ being charged with violently occupying the company’s land and destroying rubber trees. Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Deputy police chief for Lumphat district Teng Savuth confirmed a complaint was filed, and that an arrest had been made, but he de-clined to elaborate on the case.

Deputy provincial police chief Phen Dina also confirmed the complaint but referred further questions to district police.

Mong Khem, provincial sub-region RCAF commander, could not be reached for comment Mon–day but he said in December that 10 RCAF soldiers were deployed to the DM rubber plantation to protect it against robberies.

Ha Nen, a Lumphat district dep-uty governor, said the shooting did not involve the company and only appeared to be the work of the soldiers, who had no business engaging the villagers.

“There is no reason for the company to order soldiers to shoot at villagers,” he said.


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