An NGO worker was detained on Friday after participating in a roadblock by Koh Kong province’s Poy Chorpun community to protest the activities of the Chinese firm Union Development Group (UDG).
Community representative Prak Thorn said locals were joined by some 200 demonstrators from nearby Preah Sihanouk province to block UDG road access in order to pressure authorities to resolve an ongoing land dispute with the company.
The protest had been scheduled to continue until Saturday in anticipation of a visit by UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Rhona Smith, but a 50-strong coalition of authorities intervened to disperse demonstrators.
“The [police] deployed a lot of forces armed with batons, so we decided to retreat,” he said.
Suth Piseth of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force confirmed that he was detained for nine hours and asked to sign an agreement to stop leading the community blockade or face court action.
Kiri Sakor District Governor Khem Chandy denied that any civil-society staff had been arrested, calling the incident an invitation for questioning about an unlicensed demonstration.
“The protest must be conducted in a peaceful fashion, not defying law through activities such as road blocking,” he said. “Therefore, we were compelled to use force to dissolve it.”
He added that ministries and local authorities are working to solve the land dispute.
The Koh Kong province co-ordinator of rights group Licadho, Ing Kongchit, said he considered the authorities’ actions an obstruction of freedom of expression.