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Villagers face off with armed forces in Koh Kong over land dispute

Cheang Sokha / Khmer Times Share:
Hundreds of villagers block patrol team from getting out the forest. MoE

Armed forces in Koh Kong province have fired into the air early Friday to disperse hundreds of villagers after they blocked them from getting out of a protected forest area.

According to the report obtained by media,  at around 4:30pm on Thursday, a group of officials from military police, environmental officials and NGOs had patrolled in the forest before they confronted by about 200 villagers who blocked the road and surrounded the officials’ SUV from getting out. They also demanded the release of a villager who was arrested and sent to jail for  land encroachment last week.

It added that the group comprised  22 military police officers, six environment officials and six from NGOS including two foreigners were  surrounded by the villagers. They tried to negotiate to opened the way for them but was rejected by the villagers who kept demanding the patrol team to secure the release of a jailed villager with specific date.

“The suspected villager has been temporary jailed after he illegally built a home in the national park of the southern cardamom last week,” it said.

Neth Pheaktra, spokesman for Ministry of Environment said that at about 12:56am on Friday the patrol team decided to break through the surrounding villagers but were hit by stones thrown by from villagers on their SUV. The officers were then forced to  fire into the air five times to disperse the crowd and to prevent them  from chasing the patrol team.

“It is a misunderstanding and  now relevant officials  are working to resolve the problem,” Mr. Pheaktra said. “A villager who was arrested  is currently in jail since last week and awaiting the court procedure.

“He has been educated several times but did not stop encroaching into the protected area.

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