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Villagers in police scuffle

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Disgruntled residents from the Borei Keila community stage a protest outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home in Kandal province yesterday.

About 30 villagers from the capital’s Borei Keila community claimed more than 20 police officials had pushed them off a street as they protested outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Takhmao town yesterday in order to ease traffic for the premier’s passing motorcade.

Protester Seng Sarith, 33, said yesterday police had violently pushed villagers. “Police used force to push us,” he said.

Another protester, Hor Chenda, 31, said that her foot bled and her chest and knee hurt after meeting with police. “We facilitated traffic when a motorcade passed the scene to take precautions to prevent protesters from stopping the motorcade or running into it,” military police officer Suon Savri said.

Villagers from Borei Keila protested outside the premier’s house for the fifth time yesterday, after a letter from Suy Sophan, the owner of property developer Phanimex, proposed a scheme to compensate residents with land rather than construct housing for them.

In 2003, Phanimex agreed to construct 10 buildings on two hectares of land in Borei Keila to house more than 1,700 displaced families, in exchange for development rights. So far, however, the company has built only eight of the 10 buildings required.

Suy Sophan suggested that villagers be given 20 hectares of land in Kandal province and half a hectare in Phnom Penh, leaving 384 families in limbo.

Men Makara, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said  that although stopping protests restricted freedom of expression, police had to ease traffic when there was a motorcade.

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