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Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with KDC International make their case to the press earlier this month
Villagers embroiled in a land dispute with KDC International make their case to the press earlier this month. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tensions high in KDC fight

Villagers locked in a dispute with KDC International, a company owned by the wife of a government minister, said yesterday that officials had presented them with an agreement to end a standoff that has lasted some weeks. Police, however, said that wasn’t the case.

Representative Smuon Nhearn, whose house was searched on Wednesday, said police who have surrounded homes in Kampong Tralach district’s Lor Peang village in recent weeks returned to his property to compromise.

“Commune councillors and the district police chief told us to break up the gathering with the promise that authorities will not arrest us,” he said.

Dozens of villagers have been holed up in one house and a tent close to the area that is in dispute, planning their next move.

A row dating back to 2007 between villagers and KDC – owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem – has escalated this month, leading to clashes and arrests.

Khath Saroun, 32, a wife of Seang Hen, a village representative arrested earlier this week, said that the police were not trying to end hostilities, only trick villagers.

“We asked [authorities] to release my husband and another representative but they rejected this, so how can we believe they won’t arrest us when we disperse?”

Hul Veasna, chief of police at Kampong Tralach district, said villagers had been told to end their demonstrations and move on.

“We need to inform them to break up their gathering.”

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