February 5, 2018

Officials quizzed over shooting of buffalos on sugar cane companies’ land

Two Military Police officials from Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district have been questioned after shooting 12 water buffalos – killing six of them – when they crossed onto land owned by two sugar cane companies in Koh Kong, officials said yesterday.

In Kong Chit, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the incident happened on Friday afternoon. The buffalos were shot on land that belonged to Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co Ltd, and Koh Kong Plantation, which were embroiled in a long-running land dispute with locals, and were previously owned by ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who divested in 2010.

Kong Chhit said a local official had told him that six buffalos were killed while the other six were injured. The buffalos belonged to a villager named Sok Ngeth and his nephew, who could not be reached yesterday.

Koh Kong Provincial Governor Mithona Phuothorng took to Facebook on Saturday to order authorities under her to investigate the case.

“For this shooting dead and injuring buffalos, I told local authorities to find the truth, and I ordered local authorities to investigate the case immediately,” she said in her post.

Phuothorng could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, Sok Sothy, deputy governor and spokesman for the province’s administration, confirmed that two Military Police officials were questioned after the incident, but said he did not have details of the questioning.

Thong Narong, Military Police chief in Koh Kong, said the owner of the buffalos and the company had already settled on compensation as of yesterday. He declined to directly answer whether the Military Police officials were hired to guard the companies.

“They already dealt with the case and agreed with each other and ended the case,” he said. “But I don’t know how much [was the compensation.]For the military [police officials], they will be responsible for administrative punishment.”

Kong Chit said the buffalos were found about 2 kilometres away from the Military Police post on the companies’ land. He said the owners had been called by the Military Police for questioning yesterday morning. The villagers raise the animals for a living as their land was taken away by the companies, and let the cattle roam free during the day, Kong Chit said.

Deputy Governor Sothy, meanwhile, said both the villagers and the company were in the wrong.

“The villagers should look after their cattle and put them in a stable,” he said.

“And the company should not use violence.”

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