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Trust govt, PM tells protesters

120528_03

Villagers in Kratie province block the road in January after four people in a group of villagers protesting against alleged land grabbing by the TTY company were shot. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen has told villagers they should not to protest in land disputes but rather seek help from authorities following a spate of violent crackdowns on demonstrations.

The premier said protests affect public order and claimed they sometimes become violent in a statement signed last Tuesday and obtained by the Post yesterday.

“In settling to divide land or land ownership to villagers, there is no other means to resolution than authorities to tackle [the problem],” the statement reads.

Protesters must avoid “all forms of violence” and not employ disruptive actions such as blocking national roads, it continues.

Conversely, rights groups and opposition parties last week issued a series of statements condemning government crackdowns of protests and the abuse of the legal system in favour of companies over villagers in land disputes.

In what observers have said has been a sharp downturn in respect for human rights in Cambodia this year, a series of bloody crackdowns on land protesters have left an innocent 14-year old girl dead and several others injured by gunfire.

On Thursday, 13 women involved in the Boeung Kak land eviction were sentenced to two and a half years in jail, while on the same day, activist monk Loun Sovath was manhandled into a car, detained and threatened with arrest if he refused to stop attending protests.

In a statement on Friday, rights group Adhoc condemned the abuse of the land law to grant concessions on land already occupied by villagers.

“It is particularly disturbing that the 13 Boeung Kak women received hefty prison terms for occupying the disputed land for merely three hours, when companies continue to flagrantly ignore the laws with no consequences.”

The Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party both issued statements the same day condemning government-sanctioned violence in disputes.

“[We] would like to request Supreme Council of Magistracy to have a look and punish judges and prosecutors who used power to convict people unjustly,” the SRP statement reads.

Chan Soveth, an investigator for Adhoc, said yesterday the very reason people take to the streets is because they cannot expect help from Cambodia’s dysfunctional legal system.

To contact the reporters on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com
Meas Sokchea at sokchea.meas@phnompenhpost.com

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