Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Armed police stand by amid Kampong Thom protest

Armed police stand by amid Kampong Thom protest

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Kampong Thom’s Doung commune in Prasat Balang district. Supplied

Armed police stand by amid Kampong Thom protest

Nearly 100 armed military and provincial police personnel have been on standby in camps across Kampong Thom’s Doung commune in Prasat Balang district since April 27 as villagers protest in an ongoing land dispute, a civil society group claimed.

However, the provincial governor said the police had been deployed to protect the safety of officials demarcating social land concessions for villagers.

Sok Ratha, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said on Wednesday that an estimated 80 to 90 members of the security forces had been sent from Doung Communal Hall to sites across the commune. Vehicles had also been deployed.

Villagers are afraid for their safety, with some remaining in their houses and others going to live with relatives in other provinces, he claimed.

Ratha said villagers in Doung commune are locked in a land dispute, accusing provincial authorities of confiscating their ancestral rice fields. The deployment of armed police in this situation was against the law, he said.

“If [we] look at the role of the security forces, they are meant to serve the people and protect their interests and security."

“And if we look at the Criminal Code, the use of armed security forces is not allowed in certain situations, such as against unarmed citizens and those peacefully exercising their freedom of expression and their right to protest. This must be prohibited,” Ratha said.

However, Kampong Thom provincial governor Sok Lou said the deployment of security forces was not intended as a threat but was to safeguard villagers’ legal property. It was also meant to protect officers demarcating social land concessions so people could receive land. The process began in 2009.

“The police forces have been deployed to protect the security and safety of officers sent in to carry out work on social land concessions. This deployment is correct because it has been done to protect the legal property of the state,” Lou said.

The Kampong Thom provincial governor’s comments came as villagers in Doung commune claimed that local authorities have prevented 470 families from entering their rice fields for more than two weeks.

The Post could not reach two villager representatives for comment on Thursday.

However, residents involved in the dispute told Radio Free Asia on Monday that some villagers have been in hiding for more than a week after the deployment, with some escaping into the forest in fear of arrest.

Lou maintained that these were villagers who had attempted to illegally grab state land involved in the social concession scheme run in collaboration with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the Ministry of Interior.

The project is being implemented by the provincial hall, he said, and he requested villagers go there to find a resolution if they had a legal right to land.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa