Thirty Arrested as Airport Land Protest Turns Violent

Photo shows police fire tear gas against rock-throwing demonstrators. Photo from Facebook.

Police fire tear gas against rock-throwing demonstrators

PHNOM PENH -- Kandal authorities arrested 30 people on Sunday in a violent confrontation in which 13 police officers were injured over a land dispute at new airport construction site. However, the families of those arrested claim unfairness and say protesters were also injured.

Rights group Adhoc says the land dispute resolution committee should take action on this matter, and the authority must free those detained.

The Kandal provincial administration set out the reasons on Monday for the detentions at Kampong Talong village in Beong Kyang district.

It said about 100 people used sticks, rocks, slings, and bottles of fuel to attack police at the Phnom Penh airport construction site.

“During the violent crackdown, the police were forced to disperse protesters and protect themselves using water cannon and tear gas,” Kandal provincial administration said.

“The police also arrested 30 protesters, including 20 women, for investigation at the Police Commissariat.

The provincial administration said it was disappointed and considered the protesters’ action as extremist and illegal, and which caused problems for the nation. The administration urged the protesters to stop their illegal action and solve the problems peacefully.

The families of those who were arrested tell a different story. Pu Phon, who is involved in the land dispute, said his wife, his older sister and his younger sister were beaten while being arrested and he has not had any information about them.

He said he and his family had the rights to this land, but authorities had yet to come up with a solution before some of them were arrested.

“I haven’t been able to contact my wife, my older sister, and my younger sister yet. I don’t know how they are. Yesterday, it was so cruel and scary. They took the land we legally possessed, and they arrested us when we wanted to talk,” Pun Phon said.

He and other families of those who were arrested would ask the authority about the detentions.

Kav Khemara, said he had tried to contact his father and grandmother who were arrested, but had not received any response.

He did not want a  long-term conflict, but the authority and the airport construction company had not resolved the problem properly, Khemara said.

“The authority probably took their phones, that’s why we couldn’t contact them. I don’t know where exactly they are.

“I only heard that they are at the Police Commissariat. We do not want anything. They can develop if they want as long as the price is reasonable. Arresting people like this is illegal,” Khemara said.

Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophorn and provincial chief of police Chhoeun Sochet, could not be reached for comment.

Soeng Senkaruna, an investigator with Adhoc, said the land dispute resolution committee should investigate to find the truth behind the problem for the benefit of the authority, the company and especially the citizens.

If the conflict was not resolved as soon as possible, it would become a long-term conflict and become more serious to the point that there was more violence and more protesters arrested.

“We are always concerned with possible violence against citizens while the authority is there,” Saengkarona said.

“We will seek a solution as soon as possible because there has not been one yet. The citizens are not allowed on their own land while the company is permitted to continue with construction.

“All this is an assault by the authority. The citizens have land tenure, therefore they must be given a suitable price for their land,” he said.

Saengkarona suggested the authority should rethink solutions for the problem and free the detained protesters. Every citizen has the rights to protest, he added. 

Land ministry spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Meng Seavmey



Related Articles