Cambodia’s military crackdown recalls bloody ‘Kratie insurrection’
Scattered through mile after mile of rubber trees bearing their cracked clay bowls like so many begging monks, the village of Pro Ma feels as fragile as an afterthought. Land once rich with forest now crumbles beneath the smoke-choked sun. Between towering termite mounds clenched like white knuckles, farmers hack at the dirt with rusted hoes, rows of cassava wilting in their wake.
In a vacant field ringed by cashew trees, the grave of a teenage girl is still bright with white flowers. This makeshift shrine of wood and rusted metal is all that remains of a violent clash almost six years ago between a handful of farmers fighting for their land and the full might of the Cambodian military.
In neighboring Snuol district, though, the fight is far from over. A long-standing land dispute between residents of Pi Thnou commune and the Memot Rubber Plantation Company erupted in bloodshed yesterday as armed security forces reportedly opened fire on hundreds of villagers – some apparently armed with knives and machetes – protesting the alleged burning of their homes and farms.
Footage from the clash shows panicked villagers scattering as security forces let off rapid-fire bursts from their assault rifles. While the number of casualties remains unclear, Radio Free Asia has reported as many as eight dead and a further 40 injured. Local media on the ground including the Phnom Penh Post have quoted eyewitness accounts of between two and six dead. Local authorities dismissed claims that any villagers had lost their lives in the clash. A Cambodia Daily report last year quoted Pi Thnou commune chief Bun Nhal as saying that the Cambodian government had granted almost 10,000 hectares of an economic land concession to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s daughter Hun Mana in 2008.
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