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Police injured in land dispute, four detained

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Clashes between Preah Sihanouk authorities and residents over land issues in Sihanoukville’s Prey Nop district. Facebook

Police injured in land dispute, four detained

Preah Sihanouk police continued to question four suspects on Sunday in connection with using machinery to clear land in the Ream National Park area and assaulting authorities.

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that police forces attempted to stop a group of about 20 people using bulldozers to clear land in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune, Smach Deng village.

The group led by Sman Smael, a Khmer-Muslim man, turned violent and four officers were injured. “Smael led a violent attack on our authorities. We arrested four people,” Phearum said.

Phearum said that since 2017, a group led by 58-year-old Khmer-Muslim Sen Saleh, a farmer living in Prey Nop district’s Ream commune, Smach Deng village, have been clearing forest land in the area of Ream National Park.

Later, the Department of Environment filed a case against Sen Saleh and his people and sent them to the Preah Sihanouk provincial prosecutor who placed them under judicial supervision.

Phearum said Smael was a member of Saleh’s group and the Department of Environment had filed a case against him.

Phearum said Saleh and his people are still clearing land in the area of Ream National Park.

“Our provincial authorities have already identified this group. The case of Sen Saleh and his group is in the process of being decided by the court and the authorities,” Phearum said.

Phearum warned people not to be deceived by the incitement of San Saleh and Sman Smael.

“Please withdraw immediately to avoid legal action. The provincial administration will take legal action without any exception,” Phearum said.

Adhoc Preah Sihanouk provincial coordinator Cheap Sotheary said most of the people protesting over the land were Khmer-Muslims who had settled there during 2016-2017.

“In the past, we have come to a resolution with the people to stop settling on land in Ream National Park by providing State land instead. However, the people refused, claiming that the land was too small,” Sotheary said.

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