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Koh Kong villagers attempt to block road

Koh Kong villagers attempt to block road

VILLAGERS involved in a long-simmering land dispute in Koh Kong province say they will send a new petition to authorities, after four protesters suffered injuries this past weekend while attempting to block a national road.

Ouch Leng, a programme officer for rights group Adhoc, said villagers blocked National Road 48 in Sre Ambel district Friday as part of a demonstration aimed at drawing attention to a dispute that could see 34 families evicted.

But a motorist who was angry with the traffic jam caused by the protest clashed with villagers, resulting in injuries to four of them, Ouch Leng said.
“The car owner tried to crash into the bed that villagers used to block the road,” said Ouch Leng, who described the injuries as “not serious”.

The villagers say they could be on the verge of eviction after a company owned by Koh Kong businessman Heng Huy set today as a deadline for the clearance of roughly 100 hectares of disputed land. The Supreme Court last year ruled that the land belonged to Heng Huy and another businessman.

Pher Nherng, a representative of the villagers, called the protest a “last choice” after Heng Huy began clearing parts of the disputed farmland last week. He said villagers yesterday began preparing a complaint to send to provincial, district and commune officials urging them to stop allowing military police to support Heng Huy. Last week, military police stood by as workers hired by Heng Huy cleared parts of the farmland. Pher Nherng said villagers also want authorities to issue land titles.

Heng Huy yesterday questioned how villagers could be issued land titles.

“How can they issue another land title to villagers if the land is already owned?”

Sre Ambel district governor Tuon Seila said that he would forward the complaint to provincial officials.

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