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'Threatened' villagers block road with houses

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Villagers moved two houses to block National Road 76 in Mondulkiri province during a protest. Photo Supplied

ABOUT 500 villagers from Mondulkiri’s Keo Seima district blocked National Road 76 with two houses during a protest over a land dispute on Friday, but later removed them after authorities offered to withdraw.   

Residents of the Sre Khtum commune’s Orona, Sneng and O Am villages blocked the road from 1am on Friday until Saturday at 9pm to demand that the Riththy Kiri Seima Company stop clearing their farmland and withdraw bulldozers from the 5,000 hectares of disputed land, which affects around 2,050 families.  

Residents used brute strength to move to transport the structures from the roadside to the middle of the route.

Villager Vorn Vit, who joined in the protest, said he was injured on his head and ear when military police allegedly beat him.  

“We had no ability to stop company staff from clearing our land, so we decided to block the road to allow people know in public so that the authority would come to find a resolution,” Vorn Vit said.

He also claimed that on Friday at 10pm about 100 military police officers fired their weapons into the air an attempt to get villagers to open the road but villagers refused and a struggle ensued.

Vorn Cit said that villagers had made an agreement with deputy provincial governor Heng Samnang.  

Heng Samnang said he tried to negotiate with villagers and that top government officials had ordered the company to leave the land.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc said yesterday: “Blocking the road is the last choice that villagers had. They knew that blocking the road causes people to be in traffic jams, face many  problems and that it is against the law.”

Riththy Kiri Seima company could not be reach for comment yesterday.

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