Villagers traveling to Phnom Penh for land-dispute protest arrested at roadblock

A group of villagers involved in a long-running land dispute with a Chinese-backed company and a ruling party senator were arrested this week at a roadblock on the way to Phnom Penh, where they had planned to petition a government minister.
Police arrested 11 villagers in southwestern Koh Kong province on Thursday and charged them with criminal incitement, according to the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights, or Licadho. 
Eb Teng, one of the villagers, told Radio Free Asia that authorities later threatened to make more arrests after about 20 villagers gathered outside the provincial office where the 11 were being detained.
Around 100 villagers had planned to travel to the capital Thursday to urge Minister of Justice Koeut Rith to intervene on previously filed charges against 30 Koh Kong land activists. 
Police initially stopped four vans from driving from the province toward Phnom Penh, but a fifth van began the journey and was later stopped at a police roadblock about 80 miles (140 km) away, Licadho said in a statement.
The villagers were forced into a police truck and brought back to the provincial capital, Eb Teng said. Police didn’t give a reason behind the arrest and didn’t show any warrants, she said.
Police were also sent to an area between two villages where many of the protesters live, according to Licadho.
No-bid land lease
The villagers have accused Ly Yong Phat, a senator from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and casino tycoon with business interests in Koh Kong, and the Chinese-backed Union Development Group, UDG, of encroaching on their land.
UDG is building the US$3.8 billion Dara Sakor project including a seaport, resorts and casinos in Koh Kong.
The company was sanctioned in 2020 by the U.S. Treasury Department under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act for alleged land grabs, rights abuses, and corruption.
The Dara Sakor project has been mired in controversy ever since UDG’s parent company, Tianjin Wanlong Group, was granted a 99-year lease to 90,000 acres along 20 percent of Cambodia’s coastline in May 2008.
The lease was handed to Tianjin Wanlong without an open bidding process and has provided the company with more than triple the size of any concession allowed under Cambodia’s land law.
UDG has cleared large swathes of forest from Botum Sakor National Park, which was included as part of the land lease, forcing hundreds of families to relocate.
Authorities have turned the land dispute case into a political dispute against the villagers, Eb Teng said.
“I have been protesting over the land dispute but authorities accused me of being involved with politics,” she said. “We don’t have a party? What is my party?”
RFA was unable to reach a provincial court official or Provincial Police Chief Kong Mono for comment about the arrests on Friday.
Licadho’s coordinator in Koh Kong, Huor Ing, urged the court to release the villagers, saying they were only exercising their right to request assistance from government officials. They didn’t provoke any social disorder, he said.
“Authorities should consider releasing them out of the jail because villagers just tried to petition the government to intervene,” he said.
Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed.


不想錯過? 請追蹤FB專頁!    
前一頁 後一頁