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Three Injured as Villagers Stone, Torch Demolition Equipment

Three people were injured Monday, one of them seriously, when a mob of villagers threw stones at a construction crew they say were intent on destroying their homes.

The injured were a local village official and two bystanders, witnesses said, but their identities were not known.

A representative of the construction company 7NG said Tuesday a large truck carrying a bulldozer on a trailer broke down in front of a village in Chamkarmon district, Phnom Penh, whose residents began throwing stones at the crew.

Villagers say the crew was in the process of unloading the bulldozer, a common piece of demolition equipment in the growing problem of land grabs across Cambodia.

Rights investigator Chhim Savuth, of the Cambodia Center for Human Rights, said a truck towing a bulldozer had stopped in front of the village and appeared to be backing up in preparation for unloading.

"The villagers alleged that it would destroy their homes," he said. "Hundreds of villagers set fire to tires and threw rocks on the equipment that was about to go down, resulting in broken glass, but the driver escaped injuries."

Srey Sothea, president of 7NG, said the company was not going to have anyone arrested. But he said the transportation of the equipment should not excuse "the intention to assault" shown by the villagers.

"Usually the destruction [of homes] is not my capacity," he said. "Daring to destroy 100 homes? How can we do it? It would require the participation of, the formation of, an appropriate coalition commission. Going alone without the knowledge of the authorities, not even a police officer would know about it."

Ung Poryou, a resident of the villager, said the stones were thrown by children, ages five to six, who were worried the company would take their parents' land.