Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Troops criticised again in Kampot

Troops criticised again in Kampot

Troops criticised again in Kampot

AN activist from the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights said Thursday that members of an army unit threatened to kill him after he took a photograph of them cutting down fruit trees on disputed land in Kampot’s Chumkiri district.

“They had already cut down the villagers’ mango, coconut and guava trees before I came. I took only one photo when they were preparing to leave the farmland, but they saw me,” said the activist, 40-year-old Prum Piseth.

“They chased me and threatened to chop me to death with knives and axes, but I evaded them safely. Then they screamed that they would kill me the next time after failing to kill me this time,” he said.

On Wednesday, residents from the district filed a complaint in provincial court against members of the same army unit, who they said had been encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees.

The allegations from the CCHR activist come exactly one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen told military officials to refrain from illegal land-grabbing during a conference at the Ministry of Defence.

The families and members of the military unit have been fighting over the land since 2001. The families say they have lived in the disputed area for decades, but the soldiers say the land was given to them by their former commander.

Representatives of the 300 families living on the disputed land, located in Chres commune, say the military unit has been trying to take control of it since 2001, but that the soldiers’ threats had stopped in 2006 and had not resumed until recently.

Mam Nang, one of the people who filed the court complaint, earlier this week accused members of the military unit of threatening to rape and kill her after she caught them cutting down her fruit trees.

The unit at the centre of the allegations could not be reached for comment on either Wednesday or Thursday, nor could Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Defence Ministry.

The Chres commune police chief, Teth Bunnos, said Thursday that he believed Prum Piseth’s account of his interaction with the soldiers.
“There was really a threat to kill him from the soldiers, and we are researching and investigating it,” he said.

“When we arrived at the scene, the four soldiers had already left, and we don’t know their identities,” he said.

A resident who identified herself only as Nang said she had grown increasingly concerned for her safety in the past few days.

“It is very quiet here, and I just live with my younger brother and a baby in the house, and they have threatened to come again and again,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the