A bloody slingshot battle broke out in Kompong Speu province yesterday when villagers who have sold their land to a private company defended the firm’s machinery as it attempted to bulldoze the homes of neighbors who have refused to sell.
The dispute, in Thpong district’s Ya Ang commune, saw at least four people injured, according to villagers and officials.
A day earlier, one teenage boy had his collarbone broken when the villagers, who were allegedly set against each other by CT Mart Company, came to blows, according to Satya village chief Suos Morn.
“At least two villagers have head injuries and one more has a bloody lip after they shot at each other with slingshots,” Mr. Morn said of Thursday’s clash. “The dispute started because a small group of villagers refuse to sell their land, while the majority have sold their land, causing them to fight among themselves.”
The clash occurred when about 30 bulldozers belonging to CT Mart drove onto a 700-hectare plot spanning four villages, with the intention to level forest and shelters set up by the families in order to keep vigil against the company.
One shelter was burned to the ground and two were flattened by the company, according to officials. Villagers who have refused to sell allege that CT Mart—an Indian-owned company that has bought up hundreds of hectares in the area for sugarcane and acacia plantations—is behind the actions of those who have sold.
“They are inciting them to protect them and fight against us,” said Oeu Sarin, 49. “When we tried to protect our homes this morning, the security guards of the company called the villagers and they began attacking us with slingshots.”
The villagers also say authorities are protecting the company.
“Those accusations are not true,” said Thpong district police chief Hong Sokhorn. “We are only here to protect public security and property.”
“The police have not made any arrests,” he said. “We don’t know who is wrong and who is right.”