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Armed Police Accused of Aiding Company in Land Grab

Villagers in Svay Rieng province say armed police drove them off their land in collusion with a private company intent on stealing it.

Police brandished weapons and fired shots into the ground, forcing the villagers to leave a plot of land in order to turn it over to a rubber plantation, villagers told an investigator for the rights group Adhoc, which recently held a public forum in Svay Rieng.

When villagers left the land, their crops and homes were razed by a bulldozer, Chhim Savuth, the investigator said.

On Sept. 8, police confronted the villagers and "fired warning shots, and the shots made the dust fly from the ground," Chhim Savuth said. "There were hundreds of families. Now, the leveling of the land has affected almost 500 families, destroying crops and houses and about 2,000 to 3,000 mango trees."

A local official has been working as a representative of the rubber company behind the land grab, villagers told VOA Khmer.

Kim Nou, a villager who claims her potato field was ruined in the fracas, said authorities threatened to shoot her, too.

"Yes, they leveled my land for potato plants, and they threatened to shoot me," she said. "I went to stop them. I said don't level my land. I went to stop the bulldozer."