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Clash between fed up villagers and cops in Kampong Speu

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Source: Reuters // Reuters

PHNOM PENH, June 9 (Reuters) – At least 11 people were injured when armed police broke up a protest in Cambodia on Thursday by about 300 villagers resisting a court order to transfer farmland to a Taiwanese businessman, villagers and witnesses said.

The clash comes amid growing discontent over forced evictions in Cambodia that have outraged rights groups and foreign donors, who say the government is driving people off their land to benefit cronies in cahoots with foreign firms.

The bone of contention is a lack of title deeds in Cambodia, since most legal documents were destroyed during the ultra Maoist Khmer Rouge era in the late 1970s, when an estimated 1.7 million people were killed.

Four policemen were among those wounded when 200 officers with assault rifles and electric batons clashed with villagers carrying sticks and knives in Kampong Speu province, about 40 km from capital Phnom Penh.

“We never sold our land, we have owned the land from our ancestors, so why are the title deeds now in Chinese names?” Sun Bunchhuon, 42, a representative of the villagers told Reuters by telephone, adding three villagers had been shot and four beaten and shocked with electric batons.

The provincial police chief Keo Pisey and his deputy Som Bora declined to comment on the clashes.

Protests over land grabs are taking place regularly in Cambodia and Housing Rights Task Force, a group monitoring forced evictions, reported 30,000 Cambodians were moved off their land last year, up from 27,000 in 2009.

Chheng Sophors, a representative of local rights group Licado, witnessed the incident and said the government was making no effort to tackle the problem at national level.

“Violence over land issue has been getting worse and worse and there have been no solutions. People are always the victims of economic land concessions,” Chheng Sophors said.

In a recent visit, Surya Subedi, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, expressed concern about crackdowns on protesters and legal action taken against land activists and people who made claims to disputed land.

He also urged foreign investors to be responsible in their business dealings in Cambodia. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty and Miral Fahmy)



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