Villagers Protesting Paper Plant To Meet King

Pursat province villagers resisting a massive paper pulp plantation are among more than 50 people from various provinces ex­pected to meet King Norodom Siha­mo­ni in January to seek intervention in human rights and land disputes, NGO officials and villagers said Tuesday.

Um Huot, 60, and Kuch Veng, 41, are planning to travel from Pursat’s Krakor district to appeal for help in their fight against Pheap­­i­mex Co Ltd’s forest and land con­cession, said Kem Sokha, dir­ector of the Cambodian Center for Hu­man Rights.

Both men were protesting the Pheapi­mex land concession in November when un­identified perpetrators lobbed a grenade, injuring several members of their pro­test group.

“I got approval from the King and the King’s protocol official to bring those suffering villagers to meet the King next month,” Kem Sokha said, but he added that a date has not yet been set.

Krakor villagers said Tuesday that more than 200 workers had arrived in recent days to continue clearing forest for the concession, though the company is no longer using bulldozers.

“The big and small trees in the forest have been getting cut down since last week,” Um Huot said. “They have already cleared more than three hectares of forest.”

Krakor district police Chief Bin Vanna said his investigation was focused on collecting evidence against villagers who allegedly staged the grenade attack against themselves to frame Pheapimex.

Bin Vanna declined to name the suspects, but CCHR Senior Invest­i­gator Chun Socheat said police planned to arrest Um Huot and Kuch Veng.

“They plan to arrest Kuch Veng and Um Huot because the two men are accused of exploding the grenade to trick NGOs and other institutions into holding government officials and [Pheap­i­mex] responsible,” Chun Socheat said.

Pursat villagers said they had received two official letters from King Sihamoni and Retired King Norodom Sihanouk expressing sympathy over their plight.


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