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Police Stop Protesters on Way to Capital

Police stopped buses carrying hundreds of villagers who planned a demonstration in Phnom Penh Friday, witnesses said.

The villagers planned to protest the closure of a public road in Kandal province, but police stopped their buses from entering the city.

The road is subject to illegal checkpoints that line the pockets of corrupt military authorities in cahoots with an orchard owner and merchant, villagers told VOA Khmer.

"I am telling you, we left our homes, and the police with connection to [informal tax-collection] stopped me from going forward," village representative Soth Seng told said. "They stopped all four buses, citing checking driver licenses, car registrations, road tax certificates as reasons."

A villager named Nhanh said locals had used the public road since the time of their "ancestors," but a merchant who bought the orchard closed it.

"It is they who destroy things, mowing down the fences and closing the road. They closed the road day and night, and the villagers could not see their way," Nhanh said. "We came to ask for the court to help solve the problem for my village people."

Chan Saveth, a human rights investigator for Adhoc, said authorities must have public order, he appealed to the people to respect the regulations. He did acknowledge, however, that sending just a few representatives would mean the villagers's woes would go unheard.