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Employees of KDC International fire projectiles towards local villagers in Kampong Chhnang province
Employees of KDC International fire projectiles towards local villagers in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Tralach district during an ongoing land dispute earlier this month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Home searched in KDC row

Police searched the home of villagers protesting against the KDC International company in Kampong Chhnang province yesterday, confiscating a number of items, including a crossbow, an axe and gasoline bottles, officials and villagers said.

A years-long land dispute between villagers in Kampong Tralach district’s Lor Peang village and KDC – owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem – has escalated in recent weeks, leading to clashes and arrests.

Seng Mengsrun, provincial deputy prosecutor, said he led a team of 10 police into the home of village representatives Smuon Nhearn and Om Sophy.

Mengsrun said authorities found and confiscated a number of items during the search, which followed the arrest of two villagers on Monday.

“The search is part of an investigation. I cannot tell you any more information,” Mengsrun said.

Since the dispute turned violent early this month, villagers say their homes have been surrounded by police seeking to intimidate and arrest them.

Nheurn, 34, said he cooperated with police when they searched his house.

“Police asked me what the gasoline bottle was for – and I told them that it was for burning police who invade my home without permission,” he said. “They said the crossbow is an illegal weapon . . . but I used it to kill rats, snakes and fish, and have it also to protect my family at nighttime.”

Police did not try to arrest him, despite the deputy prosecutor saying his name was on a list of villagers with complaints against them for destroying KDC property, Nheurn said.

The dispute began in 2007 when KDC bulldozed 145 hectares of farmland without compensating residents.

On Monday, police arrested village representatives Seang Heng and Marng Yag, who were charged with intentional violence and property destruction.

“The rest of us are blocked in the village. We cannot go outside and earn a living,” said Khat Saruon, Heng’s wife.

KDC officials could not be reached for comment.

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