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Land Grab Protesters Clash With Police

Seven women and a teenage boy were briefly detained and three cameras taken from rights workers when protesters clashed with police in a Phnom Penh demonstration Monday morning.

Six of the women and the boy were released late Monday after they promised they would not join future demonstrations.

The remaining protester, Mao Soly, is scheduled to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday.

Phnom Penh Municipal Police sought to bar a demonstration of more than 100 upset residents in Dangkor district, who say they are victims of a government land grab and were planning to demonstrate in front of the home of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Dangkor Police Chief Born Sam Ath said Mao Soly had organized an illegal demonstration, which police blocked before it began.

“We have filed our complaints for the last three years, but they have blocked it,” said Nov Meakara, whose mother-in-law was one of the arrested.

“The police beat the hands of the protesters, and it angered the protesters who were trying to go demonstrate in front of Hun Sen’s house,” she said. “And then they arrested villagers, and the focused on [leading] representatives of the villagers.”

Residents say the Ministry of Interior borrowed 18 hectares of their land from them in 1985 on purported government business, but it was never returned.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the ministry was not aware of the case.

Cameras were taken from rights workers from Adhoc and Licadho, who were documenting the clash. They were later returned.