Military police claimed yesterday they had been attacked without warning with long knives when they tried to disperse a crowd of protesters blocking National Road 76A in Kratie province’s Snuol district on Saturday.
The villagers, however, claim military police officers seriously injured two women and four men after beating them in the head, stomach and hands, prompting others to rush to their aid.
About 300 villagers from Pi Thnou commune, fighting land concessions granted to the Sovann Vuthy Company in 2010, had blocked the road for more than five hours to appeal to the local authority to resolve their dispute, villagers said.
Snuol deputy governor Men Vanna said villagers had attacked military police with long knives, believed to be used to cut cassava.
Deputy military police chief Mao Rainny said his officers had been trying to set up a detour when villagers attacked them, injuring three.
“We did not retaliate, and my officers did not have guns. We just took them to get medical treatment,” he said, adding that villagers had agreed to re-open the road and police had made no arrests because they knew villagers only wanted a resolution.
Village representative Mom Eng, 55, disputed these accounts, saying six military police had beaten a female protester, sparking a heated clash in which five more villagers and several military police were injured.
“If they had not beaten us first, we would not have beaten them,” Mom Eng said.
Village representative Morm Hai said villagers had agreed to re-open the road after the authorities had promised to find them a resolution within a week.
“We will do it again if they don’t,” he said. “It is very cruel; they beat women.”
Villagers told the Post they had been carrying the knives.
The government granted 5,000 hectares of the Snuol wildlife sanctuary to Sovann Vuthy in 2010 to be developed for agro-industry.
Ouch Leng, land reform project co-ordinator at the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said villagers had blocked the road only as a last resort.
“The government should think about this issue. Why are villagers always blocking the road?” he said. The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]