Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

11 Kandal villagers detained over murky land dispute

A villager rides past the disputed land in Kandal province’s Ksach Kandal district on February 16. CamboJA/Pring Samrang
A villager rides past the disputed land in Kandal province’s Ksach Kandal district on February 16. CamboJA/Pring Samrang

Kandal police arrested 11 people in connection to a land dispute in the province, which according to a social media video, turned violent on Tuesday after villagers burned tires and the police then cracked down on the protestors.

Kandal provincial officials did not provide clear details of the arrest or the protest that led to the eleven detentions. However, a video posted to Facebook shows villagers from Prek Lavea village, Ksach Kandal district in Kandal province burning tires during a protest on Tuesday.

Shortly after, the video shows dozens of police officers assembled, who then cracked down on the protestors, arresting 11 of them – four women and seven men.

Ksach Kandal District Governor Bun Pheng accused the villagers of using excessive force during the protest, which, he said, was a criminal offense. He said the case had been sent to the provincial level.

Roeun Nara, Kandal’s provincial deputy police chief, confirmed that 11 people were sent to provincial police headquarters late Wednesday, after which they were processed at the Kandal Provincial Court Thursday afternoon. He said they had illegally occupied private property.

“They have claimed that they own the land and they keep saying that this is their land, but they do not have any documents. So, they are illegally occupying the property,” he said.

According to a document with details about the dispute and accessed by CamboJA, the ten families were involved in a land dispute with an individual named Hang Raing. The document states that the 10 families were given three hectares of land in 1985 by the People’s Republic of Kampuchea government.

They then proceeded to sell some of the land to Hang Raing. But, they accused Hang Raing of illegally taking land they still occupied.

The report states that district authorities had attempted to resolve the issue on seven occasions and had stopped the 10 families from erecting fencing to demarcate the land they occupied.

CamboJA was unable to locate or find contact details for Hang Raing.

Nhep Srun, 27, whose parents were arrested during the protest, protested outside the Kandal police headquarters with 10 other people, demanding the release of their family members.

“The police used violence against old people. How can my 70-year-old mother use violence against them?” he said.

“We want justice and we ask the authorities to judge us fairly and to find justice for the poor people,” Srun said, alleging that Hang Raing was from a wealthy family with links to the police.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of local rights group Licadho, said the authorities should not have rushed to send the 11 people to court without properly investigating the allegations.

“In general, poor people are the victims of land disputes and…requires an investigation before the arrest of citizens to avoid injustice,” he said.