Cambodian girl killed in land row: Rights groups

AFP , Wednesday 16 May 2012

Alleged land grab in Cambodian village results in the death of one teenager when security forces raid protest

A Cambodian girl was shot dead on Wednesday when security forces clashed with a village protest over an alleged land grab, rights groups said, in the latest territorial dispute to descend into violence.

Details were unclear but campaigners said the teenager was shot as hundreds of villagers involved in a long-running conflict with a private firm squared off against military officers and police in the eastern province of Kratie.

The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism from the UN and rights groups over a string of increasingly violent land conflicts, with security forces accused of using live rounds against activists in at least four cases.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, who spoke to a villager who was with the victim before she passed away, said: "The bullet hit the girl in the pelvic area and she was dead before reaching hospital."

According to locals in Kompong Domrey, security forces fired warning shots during the protest but it was not known who had fired the fatal bullet, Ou Virak added.

Cambodia is reeling from the killing of high-profile environmental activist Chhut Vuthy, who was gunned down by a military policeman last month as he tried to document illegal logging, according to a government investigation.

The United Nations human rights office in Phnom Penh confirmed the death of the teenage girl, whose name and exact age were not specified, and said it had sent a team to the Kratie area to gather information.

National police spokesman Kirt Chantharith told AFP he had no information about the fatality but said armed forces had been deployed to the area to prevent villagers "trying to control the land illegally".

The Kompong Domrey residents have long been embroiled in a disagreement with the Casotim company, which owns a concession to produce rubber in the area, with both sides laying claim to the forest land.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last week announced a temporary suspension of land grants to companies for private development in an attempt to rein in forced evictions and rampant deforestation.

Land titles are a murky issue in Cambodia where land ownership was abolished during the 1975-1979 rule of the communist Khmer Rouge and many legal documents were lost.

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