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Licadho urges action on Chi Kraeng clashes

Licadho urges action on Chi Kraeng clashes

Villagers say they are being intimidated by police.

HUMAN rights group Licadho has urged the government to take action after four villagers were shot and wounded by police when a land dispute in Siem Reap province turned violent earlier this month.

"This was extremely serious violence against villagers committed by the government's  armed forces, and it demands a strong response by the government," said Licadho President Kek Galabru in a statement.

"The police and other officials who committed this violence must be punished, and there must be a fair resolution to this land dispute."

Fifteen villagers gathered at the NGO's Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday to show what they say is a video of the shootings in Chi Kraeng district and to ask the government for help.

The clash followed a dispute over 92 hectares of farmland between two groups of villagers from neighbouring communes.

Licadho in a statement called on the Ministry of Interior to suspend Chi Kraeng district's Deputy Police Chief Srey Sam Ol, who the group said could be   seen in the video firing the first shot, as well as a second policeman whom it said shot at least two villagers, pending an investigation into their actions.

Neither Srey Sam Ol nor ministry officials could be reached  Sunday for comment

Villagers, meanwhile, denied police claims that they had been carrying weapons.

Not carrying machetes

"We were not carrying machetes or wooden sticks as the authorities claim, and the video footage of the incident proves that," said village representative Thoang Sareith. "Their actions go against Prime Minister Hun Sen's speech saying to solve land disputes peacefully."

He said he was confident the government would help bring those guilty parties before the courts. But he also warned that villagers had been intimidated.

"Now we feel scared for our safety - we have received threats on our mobile phones, and the police patrol near our houses looking to arrest us, so we are afraid to go home," he said.

"We don't want an investigation after we've been killed - we want the government, NGOs and reporters to keep an eye on us and intervene."

Thoang Sareith said villagers wanted to be allowed to harvest their crops on the disputed land and that the nine villagers arrested by police be released.