CAMBODIA: Police beat villagers appealing for Prime Minister’s intervention on land grabbing


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-123-2008
ISSUES: Freedom of expression, Land rights, Police violence,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learned that the victims of land grabbing who went to the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen to submit their petitions seeking his intervention were beaten by the police guarding his residence. Six of the victims were injured during the incident.

CASE DETAILS: (According to information from the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO))

On the evening of May 29, 62 victims of land grabbing who had come from the village of O Voalpreng, Khnay Romeas commune, Bovel district, Battambang province arrived at the residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Upon arrival, they camped out along the roadside opposite the entrance of the large estate where the Prime Minister resides. His residence in located in Tuol Krasaing village, Kompong Samnanh commune, Takhmau district, Kandal province, some 15 kilometers from Phnom Penh City.

The following day, at around 7:30am, while they were waiting to enter the residence to hand over the petition they were carrying to the Prime Minister, some 20 police officers ordered them to move inside an enclosed plot of land to prevent them from being seen by the dignitaries who usually pass through the entrance when they visit the Prime Minister.

However, the petitioners defied the orders of the police. They attempted to reason with the police that they were there as a last resort to get the Prime Minister’s attention in the hopes that he would intervene in their plight. They explained to the officers that they had already made petitions to the provincial authorities, asking them to intervene into getting their lands back, but they had all failed. Thus, their presence there was to meet the Prime Minister in person to give him their petition.

However, the police refused to compromise with the demonstrators. They instead insisted on enforcing what their orders leading to a violent confrontation with the petitioners. A police officer used his portable radio set to beat six of the demonstrators injuring them about the head. Another police officer also attempted in grabbing and taking away a boy, Thom Reaksnei, who was also in the crowd. The protestors were able to rescue the boy when they wrestled with the police. Only at that time did a superior officer order his men to restrain from using violence on the crowd.

Those injured were Chim Sara, 45 years old; Chhuom Phalla, 38; Tuy Pov, 27; Horn Sophal, 37; Kim Heap, 36; and Soeuy Sin, 31 and they all received head wounds. Chim Sara’s injury was the most serious among them requiring medical attention. She was very bitter with the police violence as she had already been beaten previously in her village when the police evicted her and other villagers from their land.

After their confrontation with the police, the deputy director of the prime minister’s office, Lim Leang Se, called the representatives of the 62 petitioners and allowed them to finally hand over their petition. Lim had also made the pledge, which was written at the margin portion of the copy of their petition, that he would dispatch a team to conduct an investigation into the land grabbing by June.

After obtaining this promise, some of the 62 villagers returned home, but over 40 of them remained in Phnom Penh City to make sure that an investigation team would actually be dispatched.


The 62 petitioners were among some 200 land grabbing victims who had marched since May 23 from their province in Battambang towards the city of Phnom Penh, a distance of over 300 kilometers. While on their way, at the later stage of the march, some land grabbing victims from Banteay Meanchey provinces had also joined them for the purpose of bringing their grievances to the Prime Minister’s notice.

During part of the march, half of the marchers returned home when senior officials from the Ministry of Interior and officials from Battambang province had promised to settle their grievances in their favour. The rest, which includes the 62 petitioners who had reached the Prime Minister’s house, remained skeptical of the promises and carried on with their plan.

The 62 petitioners formerly occupied 161 hectares of land when they were forcibly evicted in 2004 by three businessmen who had allegedly used their influence in courts and the provincial authorities. Now that it was the beginning of the planting season, since farming is their only means of livelihood, they urgently needed their lands back.


For many years now land grabbing has been a serious issue in Cambodia. The rich and powerful people are, through illicit means, able to acquire lands which are usually occupied by poorer people. For individual cases about this phenomenon, please read the previous appeals the AHRC has issued: AHRC-UAG-007-2008; AHRC-UAU-006-2008; UA-189-2007; UP-063-2007; UA-328-2006.

In Cambodia, there are supposedly two adjudicating mechanisms regarding cases involving land grabbing created by law:

Firstly, for registered lands, the courts have the power into adjudicating disputes over land registered with the cadastral office. However, like all other state institutions in Cambodia, the courts are very much under the heavy influence of political power and money; thus, it is not possible for them to decide on cases of nature independently.

Secondly, for unregistered lands, it is the National Cadastral Commission (NCC) who had the adjudicating power. They are being assisted by the provincial and district commissions. These two lower commissions’ power however is only for conciliation between two parties involved. But, in reality all these commissions, too, are not well organized and they lack resources in doing their work effectively.

As cases of land grabbing had gone up, the government created the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution. However, this office has also been unable to dispense their duties effectively. Apart from that, ad hoc “inter-ministerial commissions” to “conciliate” were created by the government to handle politically sensitive land cases. But, these ad hoc commissions as well had been unable to effectively deal with land grabbing cases.

For a variety of reasons, of which corruption is amongst them, the victims of land grabbing have already lost confidence. They, instead of seeking interventions from these adjudicating authorities, have had to appeal to the Prime Minister for his personal intervention into getting their lands back. The extent of political intervention in government agencies is shown by the desperate attempt by victim’s themselves to seek the Prime Minister’s notice on this case.

Please write letters to the concerned authorities listed below to urge them to conduct an investigation into the police’s use of violence on the 62 victims of land grabbing wanting to meet their Prime Minister. Appropriate action must be taken against the policemen involved in beating them.

The AHRC has also written letters to the Representatives to the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Special Rapporteurs on the question of torture and promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ________,

CAMBODIA: Police beat villagers appealing for Prime Minister’s intervention on land grabbing

Name of the victims: 
1. Chim Sara, 45, female
2. Chhuom Phalla, 38, male
3. Tuy Pov, 27, male
4. Horn Sophal, 37, male
5. Kim Heap, 36, female
6. Soeuy Sin, 31, male, 
All of them are living in O Voalpreng village, Khnay Romeas commune, Bovel district, Battambang province
Alleged perpetrator: Unnamed police officer guarding Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence
Date and place of incident: May 30, 2008 at the Prime Minisiter’s residence in Tuol Krasaing village, Kompong Samnanh commune, Takhmau District, Kandal province

I am writing to express my deep concern relating to the alleged use of violence against 62 villagers from O Voalpreng village, Khnay Romeas commune, Bovel district, Battambang province, allegedly by some 20 police officers guarding the Prime Minister’s residence in the morning of 30 May 2008.

While those petitioners were waiting to enter that residence on the roadside across to the entrance purposely to hand in their petition and to meet with the prime minister, the police guard forced them through an enclosed property nearby. They did it purposely to push the crowd away from the sight of dignitaries who usually passes through that entrance.  The petitioners, however, in defying the order reasoned that they only wanted meet and to give their petitions to the Prime Minister in person.

The police, however, instead of making some compromises had used violence to enforce their order. An unnamed police officer had also allegedly begun beating the demonstration by his portable radio communication set unto the six victims whose names are mentioned above. One of the victims, Chim Sara, has had the most serious injuries which require adequate medication.

I have learned that those who had come to the Prime Minister’s house, 62 petitioners, were what remained to some 200 victims of land grabbing, who for a week had walk on foot and some of them had subsequently travelled by car from their respective provinces to Phnom Penh City. The extent of sacrifices by these people only to get attention from the concerned authorities and particularly by the Prime Minister is enormous.  These people have already lost all trust in the courts on legal remedies for their grievances into getting their lands back.

However, it is disappointing that instead of providing them opportunity to have their legitimate grievances heard, the police have instead used violence and unnecessary force in dealing with them.  The treatment by the police of this people, to which should have been afforded reasonable actions as they sought intervention from the concerned authorities, is completely unacceptable.

I therefore urge you to conduct investigation into this incident. Appropriate actions must also be taken against the police officers involved, particular the one who had allegedly used his radio set in beating the victims.

Furthermore, I also urge you to ensure that cases involving land grabbing are given adequate attention and are properly adjudicated without delay. I am deeply concerned that failure of doing so would inevitably result to further dissatisfaction.

Yours sincerely,


1. Mr. Hun Sen
Prime Minister
Cabinet of the Prime Minister
No. 38, Russian Federation Street
Phnom Penh
Fax: +855 23 36 0666
Tel: +855 2321 9898

2. Mr. Sar Kheng
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Interior
No.275 Norodom Blvd., Phnom Penh 
Fax/phone: +855 23 721 905 / 23 726 052 / 23 721 190 

3. Mr. Henro Raken
Court of Appeal
No 240, Sothearos Blvd.
Phnom Penh
Fax: +855 23 21 66 22
Tel: +855 11 86 27 70

4. General Hok Lundy
National Police Commissioner
General-Commissariat of National Police
Phnom Penh
Fax: +855 23 22 09 52
Tel: +855 23 21 65 85

5. Mr. Ang Vong Vathna
Minster of Justice
No 240, Sothearos Blvd.
Phnom Penh
Fax: +855 23 36 4119 / 21 6622

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-123-2008
Countries : Cambodia,
Issues : Freedom of expression, Land rights, Police violence,