Villagers in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district embroiled in a land dispute with an NGO run by a one-star general were allegedly threatened with AK-47 rifles on Saturday by five representatives from the organisation, a rights worker said yesterday.
Hor Nead, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said residents of Kantuot commune’s Prum Vihearthor Techo village had informed him that representatives from the Drug and AIDS Research and
Prevention Organisation had beaten one villager last weekend and threatened to arrest two others who had previously protested against the NGO.
DARPO representative Yam Tha, one of those allegedly involved in the beating, subsequently filed a complaint to district police on Monday claiming that Adhoc staff had in fact assaulted him and threatened to kill his family, Hor Nead said.
Yam Tha also implicated visiting officials from the Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry and Prey Sar prison in the complaint, he added.
“It is defamation, and they followed [DARPO director] Pen Loem’s orders, because during that day Adhoc staff did not work, but returned to visit their homelands for Khmer New Year,” Hor Nead said.
District deputy police chief Chhai Ya said yesterday that he had received the complaint filed by Yam Tha and that his officers were investigating.
Hor Nead said that a defence ministry official had kicked and slapped Yam Tha, after he cursed at the visiting delegation and used his motorbike to block their car.
“[The DARPO representative] did not allow the three officials to drive back to Phnom Penh and they slapped him two times, so Pen Loem ordered him to file a complaint against the officials and Adhoc officers for his injuries, but in fact there was no one from Adhoc at the scene,” Hor Nead claimed.
Since DARPO was granted a 556-hectare social land concession in 2007, tempers have flared between the organisation and local families. Residents have filed numerous complaints against DARPO in the past, accusing the organisation of seizing land in excess of the concession amount and subjecting villagers to threats, rape and beatings.
DARPO director Pen Loem is a one-star general with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. He and Yam Tha could not be reached yesterday.