Policemen, protesters hurt in Cambodian land dispute
PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA
At least seven policemen and two protesters were hurt Thursday in a clash after villagers in northeastern Cambodia blocked a national highway to protest being forced off land they have occupied for at least two years.
Officials and NGO workers said about 200 villagers in Kratie province who have been living on land that was given to a concessionaire to develop into a rubber plantation blocked the road for two hours.
Land disputes became a critical issue in Cambodia in the early part of last decade, as great blocs of land were granted as concessions for logging, rubber, and other economic development projects. Violent and sometimes fatal conflicts between villagers, who rarely held formal land titles, and the authorities, acting on behalf of the concession holders, became common to the point that they were considered to be a threat to political stability.
In 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive suspending new land concessions to private companies and ordering a review of existing ones, though it is not clear the order was effectively implemented.