Wednesday, May 29, 2013

'Three hurt' as Cambodian police break up land protest

PHNOM PENH, May 29, 2013 (AFP) - Three people were knocked unconscious after Cambodian police fired water jets at a protest over disputed land in the capital Wednesday, an activist said.

More than 100 people staged the sit-down protest in the centre of Phnom Penh to call for more compensation or a return of land given by the government to a Chinese company for a commercial development.

Activist Tep Vanny told AFP that three protesters were knocked out after they were hit by water jets.
"Land rights issues are getting worse in Cambodia," she said, adding the protest was all demonstrators could do to force the government to reconsider its decision to evict them -- with little compensation -- from Phnom Penh's lakeside area.

The land belonged to the government and was handed to the Chinese firm, which has so far left it unused.
"We were forced to use fire trucks to spray water on them to clear the street for traffic," Phnom Penh's police chief Chuon Sovann told AFP.

"Blocking the street affects the rights of other people, especially patients who need to go to hospital," he said, referring a nearby hospital.

He said he had heard that some activists may have been hurt, adding officers called ambulances to help them.
The dispute is the latest in a series of high-profile cases of alleged forced evictions and land grabs by powerful interests.

Activists say land conflicts are Cambodia's most pressing human rights issue and protests have intensified since last year.

Forced evictions across the country have displaced thousands of families and prompted protests and violent clashes between residents and armed security forces.

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