20 May 2008
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Ratanakkiri provincial authorities are preventing a protest of ethnic minorities over a land dispute, officials said Monday.
More than 300 minority villagers, assisted by the rights group Adhoc, planned to hold a demonstration Friday, to protest alleged land grabs of more than 10,000 hectares and the arrests of two protesters in 2007.
But officials have denied the villagers permission, Ratanakkiri Deputy Police Chief Prey Chram said.
“Ratanakkir authorities will not permit Adhoc and the minorities to hold a demonstration because we need to defend public security and order in advance of July’s national election,” he said, adding that the denial was not a suppression of rights.
Adhoc Ratanakkiri coordinator Pen Bunna said the authorities were violating the right to freedom of assembly and expression.
“We will hold a demonstration at our office to replace the march,” he said.
The gathering was an initial step on a complaint process that would lead to requests of the authorities to solve the increasing land disputes in the area, some of them perpetrated by local officials, he said.