Four villagers were arrested following violent protests in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nop district on Thursday after they allegedly destroyed a checkpoint erected by a Chinese-owned company and injured one of its employees.
The incident began at about 2pm on Thursday in Ream commune’s Ream village after local people took exception to the checkpoint that they say prohibited them from taking construction materials into their village.
“The four suspects were sent to the provincial court for their involvement in injuring an employee and the destruction of a Chinese company’s property. The arrests followed a fight between thecompany’s staff and local people."
“The company did not close the road. It only installed a security checkpoint on it,” district Governor Sar Kakada said.
Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesman Kheang Phearum told The Post on Thursday that a large group of villagers protested to the company and then removed the security checkpoint, which was built at the entrance leading to Koh Sampoch beach, and attacked and injured a Chinese employee.
“After the fight broke out, local police and other authorities intervened and stopped the violent attack. The local authority worked with Prey Nop district police to find a peaceful solution,” he said.
Leab Van, a resident who witnessed the attack, said at around 2pm on Thursday, nearly 100 people gathered near the security checkpoint to demand that the company explain why it had blocked the road.
He said the villagers claimed the company had prevented them from taking their construction materials into the beach area where their village is located.
A heated argument began which involved the villagers, local authorities and the company’s representatives, Van said.
“After everyone had talked back and forth, the people started to grab wooden sticks and smash up the security post in an attempt to remove it. They destroyed the checkpoint."
“Then the police called the Military Police for back up and together they stopped the protest. After that, four people were arrested,” he said.
Van said the company had installed the checkpoint after it was granted a licence for the Meas Prak Beach Resort development project – known as Gold and Silver Beaches – on over 3,300ha of land in Ream National Park.
He said the company’s staff often prevented villagers from bringing construction materials into their village, which is located near the company’s development zone.
“This made the people very unhappy, and the villagers came to protest many times, but no resolution had been offered,” Van said.