A group led by social analyst and political activist Kem Ley decided to halt their study expedition yesterday in Stung Treng’s Thala Barivat district after authorities denied them entry to the area on Wednesday.
The trip, according to Ley, aims to familiarise students and monks with the destruction of the Prey Lang forest – which is bordered by Thala Barivat district, among others – and have them understand the situation of the locals living in the area.
However, when Ley’s group arrived at the Cambodia-China Friendship Bridge in Stung Treng, they were denied access by the authorities.
“I think that the halt … was an excuse for covering some irregularities involving the economic and social land concessions that impacted negatively on people’s living standards in their area,” Ley said.
But the blockade, according to Thala Barivat District Governor Thorng San, was due to the group rousing protests among the 200 families in Thala Barivat and Siem Bok districts.
The group, he said, didn’t have permission to meet with and set up a demonstration among the residents.
“It is true that we do not have the authority to intercept or ban those students to conduct the study, but we want them to do this [protest] legally,” San said. “Therefore, we’re intervening to protect and maintain security and safety … and prevent terrible unexpected incidents.”
San added that Ley’s group has gone to Preah Vihear to conduct the study.