Acting on the complaints of villagers in Preah Vihear’s Kulen district, rights groups visited the site where a soldier allegedly killed a teenage farmer over a land dispute, hearing from residents that the shooting was neither the beginning nor the end of the dispute.
Complainant Nay Sopheap – a resident of the village where soldier Poeun Tash allegedly gunned down Try Chamroeun last month – said that in March, soldiers including Tash accused his wife and son of clearing land belonging to their superior. His wife was knocked to the ground, he said.
“They tried to hack my wife with a machete a few more times, but it missed because my wife rolled away, and my dog bit them,” he said. “If the dog did not bite them, my wife would have been chopped to death”
Sopheap’s wife spent three weeks in treatment, he added, noting that police complaints had come to nothing, and that he now feels “targeted” by the soldiers, who accuse him of leading a land grab.
Licadho rights monitor Chheng Samphors said that villagers are living in fear because the soldier who lent Tash the rifle in the fatal shooting – Kaing Soeum – was still at large. Tash is in pretrial detention.
Provincial prosecutor Sreng Vuthea said he had sent a letter to investigating judge Tie Sotha to charge and arrest Soeum, but District Governor Chum Puy yesterday laid the blame for the conflict at the villagers’ door.
“The victim’s family grabbed the soldier’s land and the soldier tried to stop it,” he said.