CCHR PRESS RELEASE - Phnom Penh, 18 December 2012
NGO worker faces intimidation while documenting a land issue in Koh Kong province
On the morning of 14 December 2012, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”) Land Reform Project (“LRP”) team arrived at Prek Chik village, Chikhor Krom commune, Sre Ambel district, Koh Kong province, in order to collect data in respect of a reported land conflict. The dispute involves Heng Huy Agriculture Group Co. Ltd (“the company”) and a number of villagers from Prek Chik. On the previous day, during an informal meeting with CCHR, some of the villagers claimed that the company had grabbed land from them and stated that the villagers and the company were still in the process of trying to find a solution to the situation. They informed the LRP team about the planned gathering the next morning. Following this information CCHR attended the site of the disputed land on the 14 December 2012 where one villager, Ms. Chhun Ran, stated that the land was her land, and that it had been grabbed by the company. When LRP team arrived at the farmland two tractors and a bulldozer were in the process of flattening the land while the villagers could only stand by and watch. While members of the LRP team were taking photographs and videos of the situation, an armed police officer wearing camouflage uniform was seen to be observing them from a distance.
Shortly afterwards, five company representatives of Heng Huy Agriculture Group Co.Ltd, including owner Mr. Heng Huy himself, arrived with two police officers. Mr. Heng Huy ordered the CCHR staff to stop taking videos and photographs immediately and also threatened Mr. Vann Sophath, Project Coordinator of the LRP, stating: “If you publish any information about the events of this morning, you will face serious problems with me.”
After that interaction, Mr. Heng Huy instructed the police officer in camouflage uniform to confiscate Mr. Vann Sophath´s camera in order to destroy the evidence. Despite the police officer chasing Mr. Vann Sophath, he refused to hand over his camera, but was ordered to provide his contact details instead. Following this intimidation, a discussion between the villagers and the company took place, with both parties claiming to be the legal owners of the land. As the situation was dangerous and unpredictable Mr. Vann Sophath and his team took the decision to make a strategic withdrawal and to conduct additional research into the case.
Ms. Phav Nheing, an eyewitness, declared: “The government closes its eyes to illegal actions…I am afraid what will happen to ordinary people like me”. Mr. Vann Sophath stated later: “I am really disappointed about the current situation in Cambodia. Nowadays even company owners are allowed to pass orders to the police.”
For more information, please contact Vann Sophath, Land Reform Project Coordinator, tel: +855 (0) 1294 1206 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
, or Robert Finch, Senior Consultant, tel: +855
(0)7880 9960 or email email@example.com.
Please also find this Press Release attached in PDF format in both Khmer and English, along with photographs of the incident.