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Girl Fatally Shot as Rubber Plantation Evicts Families in Cambodian Countryside

Hundreds of villagers prayed at the spirit's shrine, demanding the government to stop giving land concession to private companies in Cambodia's four provinces of Preah Vihear, Kampong Thom, Steung Treng and Kratie, file photo.

A teenage girl was killed in a forced eviction on a rubber concession in Kratie province Wednesday morning, as hundreds of villagers clashed with security forces, police and rights officials said.

Heng Chantha, 14, was fatally shot in the abdomen and thigh during the clashes between soldiers, military and national police and protesting villagers that began around 8:30 am, her cousin, Sreang Kim Srin, 28, said. Security forces fired at villagers without warning, he told VOA Khmer by phone from Kratie.

“We were at the back of the house, and we heard firing, and we came back to the house to find a safe place, and then my cousin got shot,” he said.

Rights workers estimated between 400 and 1,000 villagers in Broma village, Chlong district, were set to be evicted from the 1,500-hectare land concession, which was granted to a company linked to Cambodian tycoon Khoun Phirun. They have been protesting the eviction.

Citing witnesses, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights said in a statement Wednesday that “hundreds of armed police and military police used rounds of live ammunition against 1,000 or so villagers to forcibly evict them from their property.”

The villagers had gathered to demonstrate against the loss of their farmland to the rubber company, a subsidiary of a Russian company called Kastin, the center said.

The shooting follows the killing of environmental activist Chut Wutty in Koh Kong province last month and the shooting injuries of three women during a garment factory protest in Svay Rieng province in February.

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday’s killing “shows that the land crisis is spiraling out of control.”

Meanwhile Wednesday, a helicopter flew over the area to distribute leaflets calling for the arrest of community leaders. National police spokesman Khieu Sopheak said five villagers in the area are suspected of trying to create “an autonomous region.” He confirmed the death of Heng Chantha.