Preah Sihanouk provincial Governor Yun Min has ordered security forces to crack down on a group causing anarchy during land disputes, especially in Prey Nop district where military police officers are being investigated over their involvement in a violent crackdown in January.
Mr Min said in a statement on Monday that the group comes to volatile areas, especially where there is a land dispute, and instigates protestors to encroach on land.
“Our authorities have been monitoring people deployed from other provinces to encroach on state and private land with a message of not having anywhere else to live,” he said, noting that police have been informed of the group’s activities. “The country has laws so we have to enforce these laws. We cannot allow anarchic people to provoke others.”
He noted that the public should also be vigilant and avoid being instigated by the group.
“The anarchic group occupies private and state land in Prey Nop district, please leave now in order to avoid facing the law when security forces are deployed,” Mr Min said.
His order comes in the midst of a national inquiry into the violence that occurred in the same district in January that injured at least two people. At least four military police officers have been disciplined over their involvement in the violence.
The violence prompted warnings from both Prime Minister Hun Sen and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who said that provincial authorities should refrain from deploying soldiers in order to crack down on protesters.
“You have the power; don’t just use guns, you must find a solution by using the art of solving problems. If you do choose to act against demonstrators, please know the law and make sure that your officials do, too,” Mr Kheng said at the time.
Mr Hun Sen then removed two deputy governors of Preah Sihanouk province, Srun Sroan and Phay Bun Vannak, from office on March 1.
The terminations came after their involvement in the outbreak of violence during the land dispute in Prey Nop district.
Major General Chuon Narin, chief of provincial police, yesterday said his forces are ready to comply with Mr Min’s order.
“We are enforcement officials so we follow orders,” Maj Gen Narin said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator with the rights group Adhoc, said there are concerns regarding the eviction of people on behalf of investors.
“It is the duty of the authorities to manage private and public land accordingly,” Mr Sen Karuna said. “But according to our research, local authorities have largely ignored land issues.”