About 100 villagers involved in a long-running land dispute with Koh Kong Sugar Industry Company attempted to march to the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday, culminating in a physical altercation with authorities.
The mostly female group of protesters was stopped at 10:40am by Daun Penh security forces, who attempted to remove them by force when they refused to leave.
One protester, Phav Nhoeung, said the authorities had used violence against people who were only seeking help.
“It is unacceptable. Some government officials worked to silence us and ordered security forces to beat and drag us,” she told reporters, though no serious injuries were visible.
“We have to consider the safety of the prime minister. We asked them to use another road, but they like to make the thing worse,” said Si Vutha, director of the security force, which has a longstanding reputation for violently confronting protests.
Pal Chandara, a member of Hun Sen’s cabinet who oversees land disputes, said he has a meeting planned today with Tep Thun of the Ministry of Land Management.
Thun previously offered the protesters 1.5 hectares of land, but the villagers rejected the deal, claiming some of them had lost as much as 5 hectares. They are now demanding 2 hectares and $4,500 per family.
In 2006, the land was granted to Koh Kong Sugar, at that time part-owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, and ensuing protests saw two demonstrators shot by authorities.