A Change of Guard

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Friday, 27 January 2012

Kratie shooters identified

Chhay Chanyda with additional reporting by David Boyle
Friday, 27 January 2012
The Phnom Penh Post

Police have identified suspects involved in the shooting of four villagers during a protest last week in which security guards from the TTY company opened fire into a crowd of hundreds of people in Kratie province, provincial police chief Chuong Seanghak said yesterday.

Photo Supplied

A security guard hired by TTY points an assault rifle at villagers during a protest in Kratie province earlier this month when four villagers were shot.
Chuong Seanghak said his officials had prepared relevant documents and sent them to the provincial court.

“It’s a criminal case. We have identified the suspects and sent the case to court already. But I could not say more, fearing that it could affect the investigation or [cause] its failure.”

On January 18, a TTY security guard fired an AK-47 assault rifle into a crowd of about 400 that had attempted to block the company’s bulldozers from clearing their cassava plantations in Veal Bei village, Phi Thnou commune, Snuol district.

One man was left in serious condition with multiple gunshot wounds and three others were also hit by bullets.

Snuol district governor Eav Sophum said yesterday that officials will also question a representative of TTY in connection with the shooting.

Eav Sophum could not confirm exactly which TTY official had been summonsed to court, but said it was a sign officials were acting on a promise made on behalf of Prime Minster Hun Sen by Environment Minister Mok Mareth when he visited the area on Monday.

“Yesterday, the prosecutor summonsed a representative of the company to be questioned about the shooting. This means we will find solution for people to give them their land and follow Hun Sen’s order, which means to arrest the perpetrators,” he said.

He could not say how many more employees of the company would be summonsed for questioning.

Local media reports that TTY security guards had been summonsed to court could not be confirmed by the Post yesterday.

In 2008, TTY, which is owned by tycoon Na Marady, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, was granted a more than 9,000 hectare economic land concession in Snuol district that included farms and homes in Veal Bei village. But on Monday, during a visit to Veal Bei village in response to the shooting, Environment Minister Mok Mareth promised to return the villagers’ land.

Reached yesterday, TTY deputy director general Heng Sarath said he could not hear properly over the phone, refused to comment and hung up.

On Monday, he said he was still looking for the security guards responsible for firing the shots, which were not intended to hit villagers.

A low-quality video of the incident released on the internet by rights group Licadho on Wed­nesday shows an armed security guard on top of a bulldozer fire directly at the crowd of villagers before jumping down to ground level and offloading more rounds.

Photos provided by Licadho also appear to show military police standing at the scene shortly before the shooting.

Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant for the rights group Licadho, said that video and photographic evidence taken during the incident showed the perpetrators were basically allowed to escape.

“If they wanted to arrest the suspects, they easily could have done so, and we have photos of the military at the scene before the shooting, so the police and military police have a duty to arrest people when they see a crime,” he said.

In a statement released yesterday, Licadho said a series of recent land disputes in which firearms had been used were a symptom of an accelerating breakdown in Cambodian society.

The statement said that more than 400,000 people had been affected by land grabbing and evictions since 2003, including some 11,000 families in 2011 alone. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAVID BOYLE

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