Villagers Protesting Gate in Road Take a Break

About 40 villagers in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district who last week spent three days pro­testing against a road-blocking concrete gate—belonging to real estate magnate Khun Sear—agreed to take a break yesterday after local authorities intervened to settle their dispute.

Chea Vannak, 48, who is among the group of protesters who began burning tires near Mr. Sear’s gate on Thursday, said he and other angry residents agreed to halt their protest after district authorities promised to resolve their conflict with the wealthy real estate broker.

“The deputy [district] governor had a meeting with representatives of the village and told us to collect our thumbprints and submit a letter to the district office tomorrow,” Mr. Vannak said.

Villagers have complained that Mr. Sear’s construction of a 1.5-meter-wide gate on the new Sam­dech Techo Hun Sen Boul­evard was dangerous, as it left only 3.5 meters for cars to pass by.

The 40 villagers planned to block National Road 2 yesterday morning in protest of the gate, but were met by Chak Angre Leu commune officials, who asked them to sit down for a meeting at the commune office.

“The district authority promised to pass along our request to Okhna [Khun Sear] after collecting our thumbprints tomorrow,” Mr. Vannak said, using an honorific given to wealthy businessmen.

Keo Savoeun, the Chak Angre Leu commune chief, who has backed Mr. Sear in the dispute, said yesterday that he did not have the ability to solve the dispute, and had sent it on to district authorities.

Hiek Chanleang, the deputy district governor who met with the protesting residents, said despite the fact that Mr. Sear’s building was jutting into a public road, there was little authorities could do to have it removed.

“The villagers want the authorities to keep the road five meters wide, but authorities could not open the private land that has a land title. This would be illegal,” Mr. Chanleang said.

“Only the courts could do something like that.”

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