PHNOM PENH, August 18, (Khmer Times) – Eleven people were injured on Monday when security forces beat back a group of villagers from Kratie province who had attempted to deliver a land rights petition to the prime minister’s residence.
About 100 villagers locked in a land dispute with an agribusiness firm in Kratie province held a rally in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, demanding titles for their land.
Security forces swooped in when the villagers attempted to march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house.
Witnesses said military police and municipal security guards used batons and tasers to block the march, driving the villagers back into Wat Botum Park.
At least 11 villagers were injured in the melee, including a six-month-old baby girl.
The protesting villagers are demanding that the government recognizes their claim to land that Horizon Agriculture Co. is developing into plantations. They accuse local authorities in Kratie of refusing to release land titles to 416 families in the province.
During a workshop earlier today, Prime Minister Hun Sen said that authorities must compensate displaced villagers with new land. He said villagers holding land titles are eligible for compensation.
Phnom Penh municipal officials met the protesting villagers in Wat Botum Park, urging them to take up the issue with provincial authorities.
Kouch Chamreoun, governor of Daun Penh District, said Phnom Penh is not the place to resolve the issue, as it is a provincial matter and not a national one.
Vuthy Vanara, chief of secretariat of national cadastral, urged all parties involved to negotiate toward a solution.
The villagers rejected the suggestion, claiming earlier rulings had designated the land as rightfully belonging to local farmers and they were not prepared to compromise further.