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Kandal Charges Nine for Violent Protests at New Airport Site

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Kandal: The Kandal Provincial Court has charged and detained nine people in connection with Sunday’s violent protests at the new airport’s construction site in Kandal Stung district. Court spokesperson, So Sarin, told EAC News that the nine, including three women, have been charged with “intentional acts of violence with aggravating circumstances, incitement to commit felony and obstruction of a public official with aggravating circumstances”.

Police initially arrested 30 people for questioning. They were part of a larger group of 100 who gathered at the site and allegedly hurled insults, sticks and rubber bullets at police who were guarding the area. 13 police were injured.

One of the protesters, Sem Voeun, has told EAC News that the arrests and accusations are intended to intimidate citizens into stopping protests as a solution to their land dispute. She says now, people are no longer protesting for fear of further arrests. She says, “Police came and told me not to protest anymore, if I do police will arrest me. So, I don't know what to do anymore.”

EAC News also spoke to Kandal Provincial Police Commissioner, Chhoeun Socheat, who told us that the authorities' action was not meant to intimidate people, but to enforce the law in the public interest. He says citizens have been incited to protest, while those who incited them had been sent to court already.

He says, “We advised them to stop protesting and if they want, they should protest with the authorities or go up to the provincial governor. This (land dispute) must be resolved through the mechanism of the government, because this airport is not a private airport. It is the Royal Government's airport”.

Some residents are in dispute with the developer of the new Phnom Penh International Airport, both in parts of Kandal and Takeo. The Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation says the project has affected 330 families on 498 plots of land, involving over a million square metres with compensation of $8 per square metre. Landowners have rejected that as “unfair compensation”. They say protests will continue until the developer increases their offer.

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