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Shooting blamed on firm

Shooting blamed on firm

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Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday threatened to fire one of his advisers, TTY Company director Na Marady, and withdraw his company’s economic land concession licence if the tycoon did not turn in security guards wanted over the shooting of villagers during a protest in Kratie on January 18.

Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post
Villagers blocked road 76A, after security shooting villagers.

A provincial court official announced yesterday that security guards Koe Sovanna, 29, Yon Chhaina, 32, and Phin Oeun, 35, were wanted for questioning over the shooting.

Speaking at the inauguration of national road number 76 in Mondulkiri province, Hun Sen said Na Marady had a responsibility to bring the wanted men to police and find a lawyer for them, warning that if he refused to comply, it would him being questioned.

“I will fire you as PM adviser [if you do not turn them in],” Hun Sen said.  

“The company is not free from blame – we have to ask how the company got guns like these and who the shooters are, because we have the picture.”

If TTY was found to be protecting the three men, it would be punished, he said.

A TTY security guard fired an AK-47 assault rifle into a crowd of about 400 that had tried to block the company’s bulldozers from clearing their cassava plantations in Veal Bei village in Phi Thnou commune, Snuol district, on January 18.

One man was left in serious condition with multiple gunshot wounds and three others were also hit by bullets.

A photo later emerged of a security guard standing on machinery pointing an assault rifle at villagers.

“I regret this issue, and I regard it as a serious issue that cannot be pardoned – we’re dealing with villagers’ blood here,” Hun Sen said.

“I condemn this activity and cannot pardon it. I am sorry to the victims’ families . . . it should not have happened.”

In 2008, TTY was granted a more than 9,000-hectare economic land concession that included farms and homes in Veal Bei village. But last week, during a visit to Veal Bei, Environment Minister Mok Mareth promised to return the villagers’ land.

Hun Sen said yesterday that he had already ordered Interior Minister Sar Kheng to arrest the security guards who fired on villagers and also urged the alleged perpetrators to hand themselves in, warning that Interpol officers would catch them if they fled abroad.

Heng Sarath, deputy-general of TTY, said he did not have information about the whereabouts of the security guards.

“I am investigating those who destroyed the company,” he said, adding that the security guards’ actions had resulted in the government taking back land.

Hak Hoin, deputy provincial prosecutor in Kratie, said details about the case had already been sent to an investigating judge and he could confirm that the three security guards wanted for questioning were Koe Sovanna, Yon Chhaina and Phin Oeun.

“The investigating judge will take a measure according to law and do more investigating to learn about their background.”

The prime minister also threatened action against com­panies who used violence against villagers.

“We will withdraw all licences from companies who received economic land concessions if they use violence,” he said.

Any company given the right to develop land has a duty to ensure villagers were not mistreated and to find resolutions for those affected by development, he said.

Hun Sen challenged companies to develop in areas that would force fewer people from their farmland.

Ouch Leng, head of the land program for rights group Adhoc, said he welcomed the prime minister’s speech, but asked why the perpetrators were not arrested at the time of the shootings.

“If the gunmen are arrested now, Hun Sen will be shown to be a justice-maker. If they are not arrested, Hun Sen’s speech will have been made for his own political benefit.”

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