About 20 assailants armed with wooden sticks and samurai-style swords on Sunday attacked a property in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district inhabited by three families at the center of a land dispute with a development company, according to residents.
The attack is the latest in a series of violent attacks on the family members living at the residence in Boeng Kak 1 commune.
They accuse Khun Sear Import and Export Company of employing thugs in an attempt to force them off the land after they refused the company’s offer of $15,000 in compensation.
“This is the same group that has previously attacked me and my daughter,” said 58-year-old Ly Sreang Kheng, adding that the gang of men turned up at his house at 7 a.m. and, without speaking, set about destroying parts of the house.
His wife and daughter—Mak Sivhong, 58, and Ly Seavminh, 22—can be seen in a video posted to Facebook on Sunday evening crying in the street outside their home as the men try to knock down the walls of the house.
Khun Sear’s company acquired the land last year in a swap deal with the municipal government, but has been battling three families who claim to have been living in a large house on the land for more than two decades.
Since the families refused an offer of $15,000 to vacate the land, they have been subject to a campaign of violent intimidation, including an arson attempt, an attack on Mr. Sreang Kheng with an iron bar, and a bag of poisonous cobras thrown through their window.
Yim Leang, the chief of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit, said Sunday that he represents Mr. Sear in some of his business dealings.
Mr. Leang, who is also the son of Deputy Prime Minister Yim Chhay Ly, provided a document Sunday showing that the Khun Sear Development Group has owned the land since March 2013. He said the businessman wanted to build a 24floor mall on the site.
Me. Leang also admitted that he had ordered company security guards to visit the land Sunday to advise the families to leave the land. He said the guards were attacked, and had only acted in self-defense.
“My workers told me that the family members attacked them first and they did nothing wrong by defending themselves,” he said, adding that the land dispute was a matter for the court.
Commune chief Vet Darith said that commune police officers were dispatched to the scene, but concluded the attack on the home was unrelated to the land dispute.
“The victims were using the sidewalk to sell something, which made the suspects unhappy—it was not related to the land dispute at all,” he said.
Commune police chief Ham Kear said police were investigating the incident and declined to provide further details.
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