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Arrests Urged in Siem Reap Police Shooting

A rights group called on Siem Reap authorities Friday to hold responsible armed forces who opened fire on a crowd of protesting villagers Sunday, injuring four.

More than 100 military police and soldiers clashed with protesting villagers Sunday, in an incident that led to four shooting injuries, nine arrests and around 50 villagers fleeing their homes for fear of arrest, Licadho said, adding that the nine arrested men should also be released.

The villages were protesting a land dispute in Chi Kreang district, Siem Reap province, when the shooting occurred.

“A rich and powerful man is right in this land dispute, but we poor face injustice,” Thong Sareth, a 33-year-old villager told reporters at Licadho’s headquarters Friday. “So I would like to send my grievances to Prime Minister Hun Sen about the shooting and violence on unarmed villagers.”

Reporters were shown footage of Sunday’s clash, which shows the district police chief, Srey Som Ol, shooting at the ground at the feet of protesters. Those shots were followed by a policeman also shooting at the ground in front of the villagers.

Four people were hit with bullets following the shooting. Three remain in the hospital.

Srey Som Ol could not be reached for comment Friday.

No member of the military police or army has been disciplined for the shooting. Ministry of Interior spokesman Lt. Gen. Khieu Sopheak said a national working group would investigate the shooting.

“This was extremely serious violence against villagers committed by government armed forces, and it demands a strong response by the government,” Licadho president Kek Galabru said in a statement. “The police and other officials who committed this violence must be punished, and there must be a fair resolution to this land dispute.”

Am Samath, an investigator for Licahdo, said he was deeply concerned about the impunity shown those responsible in the shooting.

“The shooters must be investigated or arrests…according to the law, to show transparency,” he said. “The authorities must be responsible for shooting the villagers.”

Siem Reap prosecutor Thy Sovann Thal the court was considering releasing the nine men, who are charged with attacking the security forces and the theft of rice from a field. The case had to be investigated, he said.