It took angry motorists rather than government officials or police officers to persuade more than 200 protesting villagers to clear road 48 in Koh Kong province yesterday morning after they blocked it for almost 24 hours, a human rights group representative said.
The villagers, involved in a long-running dispute over land granted to a company allegedly owned by tycoon senator Ly Yong Phat, cut down trees early on Saturday morning and slept in between the wood when night fell in Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Leu commune, according to In Kongchit, a coordinator with human rights group Licadho.
“They decided to open the road at 4am because many drivers and passengers were angry and threatened to complain because fruit vehicles could not cross the road,” he said.
“They were afraid the fruit would be spoiled.”
District governer Tuon Seila had offered to negotiate with the villagers on Saturday – an offer they had rejected because they wanted to speak with Ly Yong Phat, court officials and the provincial governor, In Kongchit, said.
“They didn’t want to block the road, but they had no choice because all their complaints were ignored. There was no solution for them.”
Provincial governor Bun Leut said he had invited the protesters’ representatives to provincial hall for discussions, but they had not come.
Protester Chhy Thy said villagers wanted the court to process their complaint quickly and resolve their land issue.
“The court says ‘please wait’ and to give them more evidence, but when we show evidence, there is no action,” she said. “However, we opened the road because we didn’t want drivers and their passengers waiting or for their fruit to be spoiled.”
Ing Kongchit said the protesters had asked the court to cancel the concession of land to Ly Yong Phat because he had been involved in two companies that had been granted 10,000 or more hectares, which villagers said was against the law.
Provincial court judge Heng Kesro and Ly Yong Phat could not be reached for comment yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]