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Police Clash Over Land Leaves 2 Villagers Dead

An armed standoff between hired gunmen and reported victims of a land grab has left at least two villagers dead and five injured in the northern province of Preah Vihear, officials said.

Sor Sam Ol, Preah Vihear deputy governor, said villagers had incited the violence, and the security forces had only defended themselves.

"The authorities did not open fire on the villagers; that is only their right of self defense," he said. "At first the authorities just shot into the air, and the villagers came toward them."

The villagers were driven from their land following its sale to businessmen, said Chan Saveth, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc.

"When the villagers were aware that the land was sold to bad businessmen and not for any preservation purposes, they started to protest against that," he said.