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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt to probe SR shootings

Govt to probe SR shootings

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SOVANN PHILONG

Chi Kraeng villagers requested Wednesday in Phnom Penh an investigation by rights group Adhoc into military gunfire in a land dispute.   

MINISTRY of Interior officials travelled Wednesday to Siem Reap to conduct investigations into an outbreak of violence between police and villagers, as villagers themselves journeyed to Phnom Penh to request an independent investigation by rights groups.

On Sunday, a long-simmering land dispute over a 92-hectare plot of farmland by rival communes in Chi Kraeng district erupted into violence, with security forces firing on villagers.

Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told the Post it had sent experts to the disputed area to determine whether there was a justification for the military police crackdown, in which four villagers were shot.

"We don't yet know the reasons for Sunday's violence and will conduct a thorough investigation to determine whether [it] was a violation of the police, who were carrying out a court order, or the villagers' mistake," Khieu Sopheak said, adding that if the police were found to be at fault, they would be held to account.

Some 90 armed security personnel, sent by local authorities, opened fire on a crowd of about 300 villagers from Chi Kraeng commune when they prevented the arrest of a community representative who was wanted in connection with the dispute between villagers from Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes, military and rights officials said.

Chan Saveth, a monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said about 40 Chi Kraeng villagers came to his office to request an investigation into the shootings.

"The land dispute between the rival communes has reached an explosive level and is serious enough that the government and all levels of authorities should take action," he said. "[They] should stop accusing the people of robbery or stubbornness, but try to solve the issue peacefully and without bias."

He added that the villagers also requested the release of nine Chi Kraeng men still in police custody who were charged with robbery following their arrest during the confrontation, and planned to request the personal intervention of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

On Tuesday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights held a three-hour meeting with Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin, who said he promised to resolve the dispute fairly.

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