FIVE disabled veterans who this week pressed authorities to grant them a 4,000-hectare land concession were arrested as they tried to return home from a protest yesterday, representatives said.
Yan Yoeuk, director of Association Cripple Development, said roughly 160 demonstrators had agreed to end their protest, which began Monday, by yesterday morning. But he said five men were arrested near Wat Phnom as they were making their way home.
He said representatives from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet had earlier taken thumbprints from the protesters and vowed to resolve the issue.
But the subsequent arrests cast doubt over the promise, he said. “The authorities cheated my people by forcing them to give thumbprints to get the land,” he said.
Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said he visited the five men at the Daun Penh district police office.
“To arrest villager representatives is to threaten villagers to stop their protests,” he said.
Daun Penh district police Chief Hun Sothy declined to comment and referred questions to municipal officials, who could not be reached.
The protesters say they represent 620 families of disabled veterans who were promised land by authorities. The families have asked for a 4,000-hectare plot in a protected area of Kratie.
In April, however, local officials told the families that the land they wanted had already been promised to private companies.
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said a committee is planning to visit the protesters in their villages starting tomorrow in a bid to resolve the situation.