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Koh Kong villagers beaten

TWO women were beaten unconscious after they tried to block workers hired by a prominent Koh Kong businessman from planting crops on disputed farmland, villagers and rights advocates said yesterday.

Yi Kunthea, 25, and her sister Yi Kunthy, 19, were hospitalised yesterday afternoon after they tried to stop workers from removing markers around 5 hectares of what they say is their farmland, according to their father, In Yi.

“A gangster who is around 18 years old ... kicked my daughter Yi Kunthea three times and hit her several times with a stick,” In Yi said.

“The man was trying to hit her neck, but she avoided it and got hit in the chest and back until she bled a lot.”

Tensions flared this week after police and employees working for Heng Huy, a tycoon from Koh Kong, brought bulldozers to some 100 hectares of land claimed by both sides.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the land was part of a larger concession awarded to the businessman, who plans to turn the area into a sugar plantation.

Heng Huy yesterday rejected the allegations of violence, and suggested the claims were part of a ploy to make him look bad.

“My workers were not violent with anyone,” Heng Huy said. “[The villagers] pretended to fall unconscious to make NGOs shoot their photos to put in the newspapers.”

“They want to accuse me, but I have police forces as my witnesses that I have not made any violence,” he said.

Bias alleged
Thong Narong, the provincial military police chief, said he had not received any information about the clash, but he promised to look into the
incident.

He said, however, that the Supreme Court decision placed ownership of the land in Heng Huy’s hands.

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer with rights group Adhoc, said that the alleged violence showed authorities had taken a side in the dispute.
“Violence is not the way to solve a problem,” he said. “But the authorities are biased and are allowing businessmen to intimidate people.”

Phao Nheung, a representative of the 34 families that live on the land, said the suspect accused of beating the two women fled the scene by car.

“We do not know where he fled to because we were busy trying to save Yi Kunthea, who was seriously injured,” she said.

Phao Nheung said there were 10 civilian and military police officers who stood by while the violence happened.

“The forces did not protect people during the clash.

“Instead, they just watched the worker beating the villagers. This means they support Heng Huy’s workers to beat people,” she said.

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