The Interior Ministry has concluded an investigation into the violent clash between villagers and authorities earlier this month, reaffirming that no one was killed in the confrontation that sparked when officials began dismantling huts built on Memot Rubber Plantation Company land in Kratie province’s Snuol district.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said yesterday that a group assigned to investigate the clash had completed its report and concluded no one was killed as initially reported by some officials.
“The investigation was completed and a report has been sent to Interior Minister Sar Khneg for review,” he said. “There were no deaths, but two people were injured and they have already recovered.”
“We have resolved the issue entirely,” he added.
In the aftermath of the altercation, conflicting reports emerged, with district governor Kong Kimny saying that nobody had died and Poeng Vin, Pi Thnou commune chief, saying that he witnessed one villager die in hospital.
Mr Vin later retracted his statement in an interview with Fresh News.
The confrontation began when about 100 officials, including district officials, a court prosecutor and representatives from the Memot Rubber Plantation Company attempted to remove 10 huts being built by villagers on company land.
The villagers attempted to block the officials, company reps and accompanying soldiers and police from destroying their huts and measuring company land boundaries.
As fighting broke out, villagers fought armed authorities with sticks, machetes and slingshots, leading to differing reports of injuries and deaths when soldiers responded with live fire.
Two villagers were ultimately injured from bullet wounds, one on the thigh and the other on the buttocks, Gen Sopheak said.
Gen Sopheak said the investigation by the ministry revealed that authorities opened live fire because protesting villagers did not agree with the work being carried out by officials and first blocked a road before attacking authorities with sticks, axes and machetes.
Gen Sopheak added that some media initially reported that six villagers had been killed in the confrontation, including the US-based Radio Free Asia, which will face legal action if it does not broadcast a correction.
“If RFA does not make a correction in the future, we will take legal action and arrest people,” he said. “Where are the dead people? There are none and no bodies were cremated.”
Gen Sopheak also noted that Kratie provincial police officers were still investigating to find a suspect named Mr Eng, who allegedly coached a villager into providing the fake news to RFA.
“Officials are working on that issue,” he said.
Keo Socheat, the provincial prosecutor, named the suspect Mr Eng in a report he released following the clash.
Mr Socheat said in a statement that no one had died and that he and the police looked into reports from local media outlets that claimed six people were allegedly shot dead and 40 were injured.
Mr Socheat questioned Tin Sopheak, who was interviewed by RFA on the night of the incident. In the interview, she said that she saw six men shot dead and more than 40 villagers injured.
“Tin Sopheak confirmed in front of the prosecutor that the interview given to RFA on Thursday…is untrue,” read Mr Socheat’s statement. “She regrets spreading disinformation and asserts that she was talked into doing so by a Mr Eng. She claims he gave her RFA’s phone number and told her what to do and what to tell the media.”
Mr Eng was not fully identified in the prosecutor’s statement.
The government granted Memot Rubber Plantation a more than 9,000-hectare economic land concession in Snuol district to grow rubber in 2008.