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8 Sep 2021

Sorn Sarath, CamboJA

Cambodia: Police briefly detain two villagers involved in a land dispute with company constructing new airport

"Two people detained for visiting farmland being cleared for Kandal airport", 8 September 2021

At least two people affected by a new airport project in Kandal province were briefly detained for questioning by authorities … after they visited their farmland, which is being cleared by airport developer OCIC. The arrest was made just a day after authorities blocked the road leading to the new Phnom Penh airport project in Kandal province …

40-year-old Heang Heak and her 18-year-old son were brought in for questioning at the provincial police station this morning after taking pictures at their family farmland.

… At the police station, she said, she was asked to thumbprint a contract pledging not to visit the field anymore, as it was in a restricted area.

“They told me that they would not take my land and they will solve it for me, but I don’t how,” she said…

“They warned me not to come out [to demand compensation] and to be careful or they would arrest me and my husband, and all my property will be lost,” Heak said. “I have both land and a house in that location. If I do not come out to protest, who will help me? I am very sad.”

… Am Sam Ath, deputy director of monitoring at rights group Licadho, said that only a peaceful solution can end land disputes.

“Using force to threaten would provoke violence, and we are worried that this confrontation would lead to violence and arrests if the issue was not resolved properly,” he said. “Companies invest for profit, but affected people should also get a fair solution.”