A man who was shot and injured in a clash between soldiers and residents in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district says he has now left Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital but wants compensation for medical expenses and settlements for villagers involved in the dispute.
Several soldiers last week fired at villagers who were trying to stop the military from digging a trench in a disputed area. The villagers say they had farmed the state land for decades, but the Defense Ministry received the land from the government last year. Mam Chantha, 55, was hit in the shoulder as soldiers fired at the ground and into the air.
On Monday, Chantha said he had left Calmette Hospital and was now at a local commune health center, partly as a Covid-19 precaution.
He demanded that authorities arrest those responsible.
“This is very unfair to me and is also an illegal act. Guns are to be used to shoot enemies, not to shoot people protesting over land. Therefore, [I] ask for a solution by providing compensation for medical treatment and land settlements to the people,” Chantha said.
He said he had not filed a police complaint as he believed authorities were already investigating.
Defense Ministry spokesperson Chhum Sucheat could not be reached on Monday. But he said last week that a joint provincial committee was investigating the incident.
Kandal governor Kong Sophorn said on Monday that authorities were working on a compromise as it could not issue land titles for the villagers on state land reserved for other purposes.
“We have already met with people in the area, so they understand what we are doing to find a solution for them, and the people have already understood,” Sophorn said.
The residents asked that the military stop digging the trenches to demarcate Defense Ministry land, and authorities will comply, he said.
However, another local resident, Phat Sovann, said the villagers still wanted land titles.
About 300 families from seven villages used 0.5 to 2 hectares each in the area, he said.
“People are prosperous with the land. If the land is gone, they will be dead and the next generation will not know what to rely on,” he said.
According to the provincial administration, the 280-hectare area was granted to both the defense and environment ministries.
In 2019, Interior Minister Sar Kheng told provincial leaders that military force should not be used to resolve land disputes.
“Do not say [you] have not been reminded,” Kheng said at the time. “Turning to use the military to implement the law … law enforcement officers are only the police, the military police, the prosecutor.”
Note: A previous article listed Mam Chantha’s age as 50.