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SR officials view Chi Kraeng shooting footage

SR officials view Chi Kraeng shooting footage

SIEM REAP
Video footage taken as Siem Reap land dispute turned violent met with mixed reaction, NGOs say.

A COALITION of NGOs  confronted Siem Reap government and military officials with video footage last week purporting to show military police firing on villagers during a land dispute in March, prompting the provincial governor to admit that the row could have been handled better, NGO members said last week.

Military officers present at the Thursday viewing, however, insisted that the footage - taken on a camera phone on March 22 as the dispute turned violent - was doctored, said Chhaya Hang, the executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy.

Three villagers were wounded and nine others were arrested in the incident in Chi Kraeng district.

Chhaya Hang said that the officials present had mixed reactions to the footage.

"[Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin] understands that the situation got out of hand and could have been better handled," he said.

"This film ... proves there was no instigation from this group of civilians," he added.

"The governor was pretty frank [and] we pursued answers about what they are going to do about the nine who are ... now in jail."

But Sou Phirin told the Post Monday his immediate priority was to solve the ongoing land dispute problem and prevent further problems.

"Our position is to resolve the ownership with the people, and this will improve the security among the villagers," he said, adding that he would hold talks on the issue on Thursday.

The violence erupted between farmers from two communes over 92 hectares of land contested by 175 families.

In January, farmers from Anlung Samnor commune tried to plant rice on the contested land and were confronted by Chi Kraeng villagers, three

of whom were arrested.

In response, protesters from Chi Kraeng burned tyres outside the Siem Reap courthouse and sent pig heads to courtroom staff. The Anlung Samnor farmers went back to the contested land to harvest rice in March, but were again met by Chi Kraeng villagers, and the military police were brought in.

A coalition of NGOs is pressuring the government to investigate the shooting and resolve the land dispute.

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