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Soldier for hire allegedly detains rights workers

Soldier for hire allegedly detains rights workers

A right group yesterday filed a complaint with Kratie provincial court accusing a soldier employed by a company at the centre of a long-running land dispute of illegally detaining four rights workers last Friday.

Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring for rights group Adhoc, accused soldier Hieb Phearu of threatening and detaining three Adhoc staff and one lawyer from the Cambodian Legal Education Centre while they were monitoring the demarcation of disputed land.

Local villagers and representatives from CIV Agro Industry Investment, a company with an economic land concession in Snoul district for a rubber plantation, had earlier agreed to split disputed land near Sre Cha commune’s Meanchey village.

CIV manager Chen Hok Sry said that he welcomed the complaint. “If my workers are wrong, they can go to prison, and if his workers are wrong they can be imprisoned,” he said.

The land dispute has been closely monitored by national and international rights groups since it began in 2008, who have said the concession granted by the provincial governor was illegal and encroached on indigenous land.

Ny Chakrya said that rights workers were monitoring demarcation with local authorities, GPS experts and community representatives when their car was blocked on a road by the soldier and other company employees for about three hours on Friday. Hieb Phearu was carrying an AK47, the complaint said.

“That soldier accused Adhoc staff of provoking unrest and urging villagers to complain against the company, and then he banned Adhoc staff and the experts from continuing to measure the disputed land,” the complaint said.

Adhoc was measuring the land following a joint agreement with the firm reached on October 10 at the provincial department of land management, Ny Chakrya  said.

Chen Hok Sry said that Adhoc staff had entered his company’s site without informing him and were trying to provoke unrest by encouraging people to oppose the demarcation.

“They were not detained or threatened,” he said. “I asked for them to show a letter saying who gave them permission to enter company land. My company has permission from the Royal government [to operate the concession],” he added.

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