Monday, 14 February 2011 15:02 Uong Ratana
About 100 villagers in Svay Rieng province’s Romeas Hek district blocked a rubber company and police from accessing and clearing their cassava farms over a three-day span.
The land dispute was the latest flare-up between villagers in Tras commune and the Peam Chaing Rubber Company, which was granted a 3,960-hectare land concession from the government in 2007. Villagers have defied orders to relocate from the area, while a village representative was detained on suspicion of destroying police property last May and “briefly kidnapping” a company representative.
Yea Yeoung, the village representative detained last year, claimed yesterday that police hired by the rubber company used electric bats to physically confront the protestors, injuring 10 in the process.
“We just banned them from clearing our cassava, but police, who were hired by the company, took electric bats to use on us and fight us,” he said.
Yea Yeoung added that nine villagers sustained injuries to their arms and chests and were being treated in hospital, while one woman was knocked unconscious.
Chum Ry, Romeas Hek police chief, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Hem Sokun, deputy governor of Romeas Hek district, said yesterday that the rubber company has delayed its development plans by two years as a result of conflicts with the villagers.
“I tried to negotiate with both parties,” said Hem Sokun. “I have asked the company to stop clearing the villagers’ cassava farms for two months to let them collect [their crops], but new cassavas planted won’t be provided with any compensation.”
A district police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said yesterday that “about 300 hectares have already been cleared by the company”.
Hem Sokun told The Post last May that the villagers have been offered 700 hectares of land from the Peam Chaing Rubber Company, but refused to accept the offer.
More than 400 families are estimated to be affected by the land concession.