Land Activists Arrested in Kampong Chhnang

2 min read
Lor Peang community members petition authorities in August to give a nearby lake protected status, in a photo posted to their Facebook page.

Three community representatives involved in a long-running dispute with the energy minister’s wife were taken into police custody over the weekend in relation to a separate dispute, residents said.

Lor Peang community members Oum Sophy, her husband Snguon Nheun, another activist Tuon Seng, and Seng’s 1-year-old grandchild were taken to Kampong Chhnang’s Cholkiri district police station around 3 p.m. Saturday, according to a witness, Prak Sophum.

Sophum believed the arrests were due to a live Facebook broadcast the land activists had made over an argument people were having over a plot of land, which he said began in 2017 and is separate from a decadeslong dispute with KDC International.

“I ask samdech puk, samdech me to help the poor people to settle their land and release them from the detention … so that they can come and support their children because their children and grandchildren are still very young,” Sophum said, using words that roughly translate to lord father and lord mother, likely referring to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany.

However, Cholkiri district police chief Him Yong on Saturday said that the arrests were due to destruction of property, not social media streams.

Seng’s husband Oeur Sarith said as of Saturday evening that he had not been able to get in touch with his wife and grandchild.

Sophy and Nheun were also questioned by police in September over an altercation with an illegal fisher. Sophy previously told VOD that authorities tore down a building where they taught community members environmental issues, but they recorded the crackdown to show officials’ actions widely on social media. 

The Lor Peang land community has been in a land dispute with Chea Kheng and KDC International for decades, with villagers accusing the wife of Energy Minister Suy Sem of bulldozing houses and razing farms. The activists have repeatedly clashed with police and military police.

Lawyers for Kheng, the Energy Minister’s wife, told The Cambodia Daily in 2010 to not mention the minister in articles about the land dispute or they would sue for spreading “disinformation.”

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