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Punch-up interrupts Chi Kraeng rice harvest

SIEM REAP
A STAFF member with a human rights group was assaulted as tensions flared in Siem Reap province after farmers tried to harvest rice on a disputed piece of land Tuesday, observers said.

Forty farmers from Siem Reap’s Chi Kraeng commune abandoned plans to harvest the rice after a staff member of rights group Licadho was punched by a villager from a neighbouring commune, villagers and NGO officials said.

Tork Ponloek, a representative of the villagers, said he saw roughly 50 villagers from Anlong Samnor commune. The two communes have been locked in dispute over 475 hectares of land, which a court ruled was part of Anlong Samnor. “I told villagers from my commune to move back,” Tork Ponloek said. “We will withdraw to think about the law because we don’t want there to be violence.”

Licadho investigator Am Sam Ath said his staff member was punched when he tried to reach the disputed land. He urged authorities to bring both sides together, fearing an escalation in violence after seeing that villagers from both sides were armed with axes and knives.

The situation in Chi Kraeng has been particularly tense this year after four villagers were shot and injured by police during a dispute in March.

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