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A district security guard shocks a protester in the back as he flees on Monday as a group of Kratie villagers were dispersed
A district security guard shocks a protester in the back as he flees on Monday as a group of Kratie villagers were dispersed after attempting to take their case to the prime minister’s house in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Kratie officials pledge solution

A day after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned provincial-level officials that he had “no patience” left for inaction on land disputes, Kratie authorities set the wheels in motion for a resolution to local villagers’ long-term dispute with a South Korean agro firm.

Deputy Provincial Governor Khan Chamnan met yesterday with the Snuol district villagers at Phnom Penh’s Samaki Rainsey pagoda, where they have been living for the past month, to inform them that the dispute could be settled soon.

“The national cadastral committee has already set the schedule. On the morning of August 26, [the committee] will meet the company, and in the afternoon, they will meet the people. On August 27, they will go down to the disputed areas; so it is in the process of being settled for the people [who have been] asking for intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Chamnan said.

Suon Vicheka, a village representative, said that following Chamnan’s visit the villagers had agreed to return home on Friday or Saturday so they could take part in the talks.

But, he said, an agreement to any settlement would be based on eight conditions, including that land already measured be given to villagers along with official land titles.

Vicheka added that if a deal was not reached, the villagers would return and seek further intervention from Hun Sen.

Chamnan’s visit to the pagoda came a day after at least 10 of the villagers, including a 4-year-old child, were injured by security forces armed with electric batons as they attempted to march to Hun Sen’s home to seek intervention.

The villagers claim they started living on the disputed land in Snuol commune in 2000, before Horizon Agriculture Development Company moved in to set up a cassava and pepper plantation.

In his speech on Monday, the premier called on officials to stop being “lazy” and instead seek solutions.

Ny Chariya, an investigator with rights group Adhoc, said that without intervention from the top, the problem would intensify. “Those [lower-ranking] officers create the social crisis, not the people,” he said.

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