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Group slams use of troops in land dispute

Group slams use of troops in land dispute

A LOCAL rights group has accused Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 31 of involvement in a standoff that led to violence between families in Preah Sihanouk province and staffers from the Chinese-owned Yie Chea Company, with four villagers being rushed to hospital Tuesday.

In a statement released Wednesday, Licadho called “for an immediate end to the illegal land-clearing and military violence against families in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nob district”.

Residents of a village embroiled in a dispute with Yie Chea told the Post on Tuesday that they had participated in a three-day protest against officials’ decision to grant 100 hectares of land to the company.

The Licadho statement said the four villagers who were hospitalised Tuesday included a 68-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy, and that more than 100 villagers in total had faced seven Yie Chea guards and 25 soldiers from Brigade 31, which the group says has a “history of unlawfully taking part in forceful evictions of civilians”.

Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said Wednesday that the use of military force had been both dangerous and illegal.

“Legislation here is very specific about not involving military in evictions, because the military by nature are very heavily armed, and so when you have arms it almost guarantees violence, which was in fact the case,” she said.

Provincial officials declined to discuss the case on Wednesday, and RCAF officials could not be reached.

According to Licadho, 116 families stand to be evicted from the disputed land, which was awarded to Yie Chea as part of an economic land concession.

Bun Narith, Licadho’s provincial coordinator, said the company should be forced to give some form of compensation to the families.

“The company has to pay them some compensation for leaving because they have been living there for a long time,” he said.

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