Santuk district governor Touch Sokha said on Monday that three Forestry Administration officers in Kampong Thom province sustained serious and minor injuries in a clash with over 100 residents in the Anlong Thma forestry restoration station area in Boeung Lvea commune.
Officer Ang Buntha sustained injuries to his right leg when he was hit by batons thrown by residents. To Rat suffered back injuries from axes thrown by residents. Another unidentified officer was hit on his left hand but his injuries were not bad.
Before the clash, 35 Forestry Administration officials in the province were planting over 10,000 tree saplings in the area when over 100 residents came to claim that the area belonged to them. They stopped the officials from planting the saplings and removed them.
“During that time, many residents armed with cleavers, axes and batons shouted and officers withdrew. But two or three residents hurled axes at three officials leaving them injured. State cars suffered damage, but I don’t know if guns were fired or not,” Sokha said.
He said the land belongs to the state and the perpetrators want it to sell resources to traders.
“If they do lack land we would allow them to rely on it for their livelihoods, but they are not doing agricultural work,” he said.
Provincial Forestry Administration head Bun Sothy could not be reached for comment on Monday. Department director Pen Vanrith said he had received the information, but he did not know the actual situation. He referred questions to Sothy.
Boeung Lvea commune chief Chhit Khoeun said on Monday that he took office in 2017, but residents were already there. So, he doesn’t know if the land belongs to the state or residents.
“Those who live on the land today don’t possess correct land titles, but they have lived here for a long time,” he said.