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Villagers say police threatened to open fire

Villagers say police threatened to open fire

VILLAGERS in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district say police have threatened them with arrest if they continue to protest against a rubber company’s alleged seizure of community farmland.

“We didn’t do anything wrong. We just want to stop the company from grabbing our farmland because we haven’t harvested [our crops] yet,” said Yea Yoeung, a village representative from Tras commune.

“They said that they will shoot us if we do not stop. Maybe they think that we’re animals, who can be shot at whenever they want.”

He said police providing protection for staff of the Peam Chaing Rubber Company spoke with villagers on Saturday and threatened them if they
did not withdraw a complaint filed with local authorities on December 21.

About 400 families from three villages in Tras commune have accused the Peam Chaing Rubber Company of seizing 400 hectares of cassava and cashew-nut farms as part of a 3,960-hectare planned rubber plantation.

Villagers say they decided to file a complaint after the company started clearing land in the area in mid-December.

Nget Dara, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc said that in seizing the land, the company had violated Cambodia’s 2001 Land Law.
“They shouldn’t have come to take away the people’s farms without confirming which villagers” owned them, he said.

But Hem Soun, deputy chief of Tras commune, said the issue was “the private company’s problem” and did not involve the local authorities. Neang Sarin, the owner of the Peam Chaing Rubber Company, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

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