Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tension still runs high in Kampong Speu

Tension still runs high in Kampong Speu

Tension still runs high in Kampong Speu

RIGHTS groups and villagers from Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district have warned that violence could erupt again if action is not taken to resolve an ongoing dispute between local residents and a sugar company in Omlaing commune.

On Saturday, about 50 additional soldiers, most of whom are from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Battalion 313, arrived at a disputed area in the commune to provide security for employees of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, who on Sunday continued to clear land despite protests by about 600 residents. Roughly 100 soldiers were already stationed there.

On Saturday “soldiers came in strongly to defend the equipment of the company”, said Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant for local rights group Licadho.

“We are extremely worried about the potential for violence. When you bring the military into the equation, there is just that much more of a chance for violence,” he added.

WE ARE EXTREMELY WORRIED ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE.”

Villager San Tho said Sunday that residents of Omlaing commune had tried to prevent company employees from clearing their land but failed because of the overwhelming presence of the soldiers.
“The employees did not listen to us because they have police and soldiers standing next to the excavators to ensure they can clear the land,” he said.

“We did not want to allow them to clear our land because in some places village land was cleared by the company, and then the authorities did not include that area in their official measurements,” he said, referring to a mutually agreed-upon system established to help set boundaries between
village and company land.

Eleven villages in Omlaing – which are home to more than 2,000 families – have allegedly been affected by the 9,000-hectare concession granted to the company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat. On March 18, villagers torched the company’s makeshift office, leading to the arrest of two representatives who were later released.

Hab Dam, chief of Omlaing commune, confirmed on Sunday that more soldiers had been employed to protect company property. He added that authorities had already measured the land of about 100 families.

Em Sophal, deputy police chief of Thpong district, said the extra soldiers were from outside the district. “The company brought those soldiers in from outside, but I do not know where they are from,” he said.

Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for the rights group Adhoc, condemned the increased military presence. “When they threaten to take over villagers’ land, it is anarchy,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince injured, wife dies after accident

    THE wife of former First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Ouk Phalla, 39, died while the prince was “severely” injured following a road accident in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nub district on Sunday morning, officials said. Rananriddh, who is also the president of the Funcinpec

  • Bun Heang mocks US, threatens its citizens in scathing open letter

    After being hit with sanctions from the US Department of Treasury, Cambodian General Hing Bun Heang said he would retaliate against any US national who does not respect his country’s sovereignty, has ambitions to invade Cambodia or incites “traitors” in the Kingdom to do

  • Police warn boycott FB group involved in the “Clean Fingers Campaign”

    Police said on Tuesday that they will pick up members of a Facebook group involved in the “Clean Fingers Campaign” that promotes a boycott of next month’s national elections. However, police merely planned to “educate” the group for now, but warned that if the

  • Ranariddh 'seriously injured', his wife dies in accident in Preah Sihanouk

    THE wife of former first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has died. Ouk Phalla succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident on National Road 4 in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nub district this morning. She and the prince were immediately rushed to the Preah Sihanouk