One villager was shot and a policeman beaten unconcious as violent clashes broke out during an attempted land eviction in Kampong Speu province’s Oudong district yesterday.
At least 11 people, including four policemen, were injured as around 250 armed residents of Damnak Raing and Phnom Touch communes squared off with a 300-strong force of police and military police in Stock Slat village.
Authorities were attempting to enforce a 2009 Supreme Court order that awarded a 65-hectare plot of land, occupied by the villagers, to Meng Keth Company – owned by Taiwanese businessman Kuo Sheng.
Concerned residents stayed up all night to prepare for the eviction, transporting beds and entire houses to block National Road 51 at 3am to block the authorities’ path.
At around 11am the next day, however, a large group of police entered the area.
Yi Soksan, deputy investigation chief for rights group Adhoc, said that at 1pm around 52 shots were fired into the air and at villagers in what he called “a severe violation of human rights”.
As villagers fought back, armed with sticks, two women were hurt by electric batons.
One policeman was seized by a mob, before being held by villagers and beaten over the head.
His captors discussed whether to kill him but the officer was released 15 minutes later, after rights groups intervened.
Mok Dim, Damnak Raing commune chief, confirmed that seven villagers had been injured.
“One was injured by a bullet, but it is a slight injury on the left hand,” he said.
“Two villagers were rendered unconscious after being hit with electric bats.”
Khim Samon, Oudong district police chief, said late last night that three police officers and one military police officer were hurt.
“One police officer has not yet awoken from unconscious,” he said, adding that he did not know whether his force would continue with the eviction.
“It is up to the prosecutor,” he said.
Following the battle, residents expressed anger that they had been shot at by fellow Cambodians.
Sun Bunchhoun, 42, who represents 88 families, shouted into a microphone that local authorities should not use guns to shoot Khmer people.
“It is so unfair for them to take Khmer land for another nationality ... what is the use of living if the land is all taken,” he said.
Ky Rinnun, 77, added: “We are willing to die to protect our lives - our lives are reliant on farm land.”
“We will struggle to the end,” added homeowner Phun Ny, whose house is under threat.
Local children were also supporting the fight. Sarin Rithy, 13, a student at Angtasit Primary School, used a slingshot to exchange fire against the authorities and said he was not afraid of soldiers' guns.
Keo Pisey, Kampong Speu provincial police chief, and Men Sibuorn, provincial deputy military police commander, could not be reached yesterday.
Khut Sopheang, the provincial prosecutor leading the implementation of the supreme court verdict, declined to comment.
Additional reporting by Khouth Sophakchakrya