Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers take hostages

Villagers take hostages

Villagers take hostages

Five employees of Jing Zhong Ri Cambodia Co Ltd tied up yesterday in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district after a dispute with local residents.

The clearing of land for a Ratanakkiri rubber plantation had been frozen after more than 300 Tumpoun ethnic minority villagers captured a quartet of company security guards and another staffer, tied them up and held them hostage on Tuesday, company officials said yesterday.

Jing Zhong Ri Cambodia Co Ltd was granted a 70-year, 9,000-hectare “sustainable use zone” concession in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district in May and recently began clearing the area.

Tumpoun villagers claim the company has no right to bulldoze their farmland.

On Tuesday morning, they launched an offensive against JZR company property, tearing apart a bulldozer and another vehicle before advancing towards the company’s environmental office, Lumphat police chief Suoy Phay told the Post.

Village representative Tuy Nheb said that as the villagers were advancing, the environmental officer and security guards fired shots in the air and threatened the villagers with their guns.

Rather than dispersing, the villagers, armed with sticks, knives and sickles, descended on the environmental officer and guards, capturing all five about 10am, villagers and authorities said.

Suoy Phay said the villagers had detained the five company employees at the commune hall and held them hostage there, binding their limbs.

Ethnic villagers subsequently tore apart the environmental officer’s office and demanded the company immediately cease bulldozing their farmland.

“The company employees detained were finally freed about noon on Tuesday after mediation between the villagers and local authority was successful,” Suoy Phay said.

“The villagers, by themselves, arrested public officials illegally, because there is not a verdict from the court, and this action is regarded as an illegal detention,” he said.

Two of the detained security guards were moonlighting local police officers and the other two were moonlighting RCAF soldiers.

As of press time yesterday, the local court had not issued an arrest warrant for any villagers and none of the villagers, the detained employees or the company had registered an official complaint with authorities.

Company administrator Chhay Em told the Post yesterday the freeze on the company’s bulldozing of concession land would be in place until a solution could be reached between local authorities and the villagers to prevent further violence.

“The villagers are completely naïve, because the company’s investment is to promote national development,” Chhay Em said.

“Any destruction of company property destroys their country, and what we have been doing is in line with the law.”

Tumpoun representative Tuy Nheb said the detention was a desperate act to stop the company razing their land and retaliation to being threatened with gunfire.

“The villagers just want to protect their land, it is not illegal,” Tuy Nheb said.

Pen Bunna, co-ordinator of Adhoc, said the company had not yet been licensed to raze the land in their concession and had been given a green light by the government only to conduct an investment study.

“The solution here was only reached after the villagers’ violence, and it sets a good example for all communities to protest after their cause is ignored by the local authority and legislative institution,” Pen Bunna said.

“Therefore, I suggest the government resolve this problem as soon as possible.”


  • Proof giants walked among us humans?

    For years a debate has waged about whether certain bas relief carvings at the 12th-century To Prohm Temple, one of the most popular attractions at the Angkor Wat Temple Complex in Siem Reap province, depicted dinosaurs or some rather less exotic and more contemporary animal,

  • Japan bank buys major stake in ANZ Royal Bank

    Japan's largest bank acquired more than half of ANZ’s shares in Cambodia on Thursday, according to a statement from Kith Meng’s Royal Group. Japan's JTrust Bank, announced that they had acquired a 55% of stake in ANZ Royal Bank. According to a Royal Group

  • Long way to go before Cambodia gets a ‘smart city’

    Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang will struggle to attain smart city status without adopting far reaching master plans, according to officials tasked with implementing the program. The brainchild of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the smart city program seeks to link up

  • China-Cambodia tourism forum held

    The Cambodian tourism sector must be prepared to welcome a growing number of Chinese tourists, as they lead the globe in the number of outbound travellers and were responsible for the most visitors to the Kingdom last year, the country’s tourism minister said on