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Chi Kraeng villagers to defy govt ban

Chi Kraeng villagers to defy govt ban

Siem reap Province
MORE than 100 villagers from Chi Kraeng commune in Siem Reap province will attempt to plant dry-season rice on a disputed 475-hectare plot of land today, village leaders said.

Tork Ponloek, a village representative, said that he and some of his fellow villagers intended to defy a ban on cultivating rice in the disputed area, which was previously ruled a part of neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune.

“All we have to do is uproot the grass, and then we can cultivate the rice,” he said. “All we have to worry about is the authorities’ preventing us from reaching the land.”

Chi Kraeng resident Thorng Sareth said that most villagers would stay away from the disputed fields after seeing police officers patrolling the area on Friday. The villagers had come intending to build shelters on the land while they cultivated the rice.

“I don’t think many people are willing to go because [authorities] have threatened the villagers in many forms,” Thorng Sareth said, adding that letters from the National Assembly, the prime minister’s Cabinet, the Ministry of Justice and the Interior Ministry have failed to silence the Chi Kraeng villagers’ claims to the land.

Authorities to keep watch
Pork Sereyrothmony, Chi Kraeng district governor, said that he would deploy sufficient forces to keep security and avoid “any violent activities”.

On March 22, some 100 armed police opened fire on 80 villagers caught harvesting crops on the land in an effort to protest its designation as part of Anglong Samnor commune, seriously injuring four.

Human rights groups have called for an investigation to be launched into the shootings, questioning why no police officer has faced charges as a result of the violence.

Two Chi Kraeng men were sentenced to one year in prison after a court ruled they had punched two Anglong Samnor men in the face during a confrontation.

Seven men were acquitted in the same incident, but still face separate charges.