Four representatives of villagers locked in a land dispute with the well-connected KDC company have filed a complaint with the Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court after they received death threats.
“The anonymous letter was a threat against our lives,” said Reach Seima, one of the representatives, adding that he found the letter in a plastic bag next to the fence around his house in Kompong Tralach district’s Taches commune when he was on his way to farm on Sunday.
Mr. Seima explained that the letter—of which only one copy was dropped off at his property—explicitly warned him and three other outspoken land rights activists not to participate in political meetings run by the opposition CNRP.
“All of you do not bring people to attend mass demonstrations, then I will give you [government] positions. And do not bring voices to the CNRP. If all of you dare to bring people, all of you will never come back,” the letter, which was addressed to Mr. Seima, Penhg Rom, Snguon Yoeun and his wife, Kong Sophy, says.
“Don’t try or you all will be dead and your children will be left behind,” it adds.
The letter is handwritten and includes drawings of handcuffs and a handgun.
Mr. Seima said that the letter could be interpreted as nothing other than a death threat and that he believed the villagers had received the letter due to the ongoing land dispute with KDC, which is owned by the wife of former Industry, Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem.
Sixty families in Lorpeang village are fighting for more than 145 hectares of farm land, from which they were evicted by Chea Kheng’s KDC company in 2007.
Taches commune police chief Chuop Chanthoeun said that he would investigate the death threat against the four activists.
“We will start to investigate after we received the complaint [today],” he said, adding that it is too early to conclude whether the anonymous letter was politically motivated.
Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that the threat should be taken seriously.
“It is a serious human rights violation,” he said. “The offender should be arrested to face prosecution.”