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Gov’t Recognizes 13 Montagnards as Refugees

4 Mar

By: Chris Mueller and Aun Pheap, The Cambodia Daily, | March 04, 2015

Less than a week after the arrest and deportation of 36 Montagnard asylum seekers in Ratanakkiri province, the interior minister on Tuesday recognized 13 others in Phnom Penh as refugees, the ministry’s spokesman said.

The spokesman, Khieu Sopheak, said Interior Minister Sar Kheng signed off on the applications of the 13 Montagnards on Tuesday afternoon, formally recognizing them as refugees.

“Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng approved that the 13 people should be provided with the status of refugees,” General Sopheak said.

“We are working with UNHCR to resettle them with a third country,” he added, referring to the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees.

Vivian Tan, regional press officer for UNHCR, said Cambodian authorities had told her office they were recommending the 13 Montagnards be recognized as refugees.

“UNHCR will discuss the next steps with the government in order to find the most suitable solution for this group,” Ms. Tan said in an email.

Gen. Sopheak said his ministry had also contacted the U.S. Embassy to talk about resettlement of the 13, and was waiting for a reply.

Asked whether the U.S. Embassy was discussing resettlement with the ministry, embassy spokesman Jay Raman declined to answer the question.

“The United States remains deeply concerned about the protection of asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants,” he said.

However, Kerm Sarin, director of the Interior Ministry’s refugee department, said Tuesday evening he had not yet recommended that the 13 Montagnards be recognized as refugees.

“But if His Excellency Khieu Sopheak said this, he is right because he is the spokesman,” he said.

Mr. Sarin added that he could not provide details about the case of the 13, because it could put them at risk.

“The 13 people fled from their country to seek asylum, so we should hide information to keep them safe,” he said.

Contacted earlier in the day, Mr. Sarin said he was unable to speak because he was in a meeting with the U.S. Embassy.

Denise Coghlan, head of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Phnom Penh, said the government had two options now that the 13 had been recognized as refugees.

“They could integrate them into Cambodian society, possibly near other Jarai,” Ms. Coghlan said. “And the other option is to help them get resettlement.”

“Normally [in Cambodia], refugees seek sponsorship in another country where they might have friends or family, then they are interviewed by that country,” she added.

The 13 Montagnards—an indigenous group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands—arrived in Ratanakkiri in late October, fleeing what they said was religious and political persecution by the Vietnamese government.

Aided by ethnic Jarai villagers in O’Yadaw and Lumphat districts, the Montagnards evaded numerous attempts by local authorities to arrest and deport them.

Provincial authorities blocked a U.N.-Interior Ministry mission three times before it was able to reach the group in late December. The U.N. then transferred all 13 to Phnom Penh and handed them over to the ministry’s refugee department.

Beginning in early January, about 60 more Montagnards crossed into Cambodia in separate groups. Only 10 made it to Phnom Penh, where they are still waiting to apply for asylum.

According to the U.N. and local villagers, 36 of those Montagnards were arrested and deported to Vietnam last week while attempting to reach the capital.

On Monday, however, the provincial police chief denied that they were apprehended.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said a local Jarai guide was arrested along with the 36 and that his whereabouts were unknown.

“The Jarai man is still missing and we are now continuing to investigate,” Mr. Thy said Tuesday.

A Jarai villager, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said there were still 13 Montagnards hiding in O’Yadaw district.

The villager, who has helped all of the Montagnards that have crossed into the province since October, said Tuesday he was relieved to hear that the 13 in Phnom Penh had been recognized as refugees.

“I won’t have to worry about their safety anymore,” he said. “I think the 13 [in Phnom Penh] will be able to live now, because if authorities had arrested them and sent them back to their country, they could have been killed.”

Officials silent as Montagnard helper still missing

3 Mar

By:Phak Seangly, The Phnom Penh Post   March 03, 2015

A Cambodian man, who was allegedly arrested last week because of his efforts to help Montagnard asylum seekers, remained missing for a fifth day yesterday, with officials claiming no knowledge of his whereabouts.

Dy Heun was reportedly arrested in Ratanakkiri province in the early hours of Thursday morning, while driving towards Phnom Penh with 36 Montagnards who had fled alleged persecution in Vietnam.

While the asylum seekers were deported, it remained unclear last night what had happened to Heun.

Ouk Hay Seyla of the Interior Ministry’s General Immigration Department said he had attempted to contact provincial police about the case but had received no response.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak referred questions to the National Police, but spokesman Kirt Chantharith could not be reached.

Moeng Sineath, Rattanakiri Provincial Hall spokesman, said he was at a meeting and unable to speak to reporters.

With his whereabouts still a mystery, Heun’s family was growing more concerned, said his wife Sam Kanhar.

“His brother and aunts are crying and worrying about him.”

Gov’t issues own dispute data

3 Mar

By:May Titthara, The Phnom Penh Post   March 03, 2015

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People dismantle a dwelling in Sen Sok district during a land dispute. The Ministry of Land Management released its figures on land disputes recently, claiming that there has been a reduction of land dispute cases since 2013. Vireak Mai

After heaping criticism on rights group Licadho for allegedly exaggerating the seriousness of Cambodia’s land rights crisis last month, the government has released its own annual report on land disputes.

However, the report omits an overall figure for the number of disputes or affected families, making comparisons with Licadho’s findings difficult.

In a statement on February 19, Licadho said that land disputes had surged in 2014, after it received complaints involving more than 10,000 families. The figure had leapt from fewer than 3,500 in 2013, prompting condemnation from activists and claims the data were a “fabrication” from the government.

The government called on Licadho to submit its records for review, which the group did on Thursday.

In a letter the following day, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction said that its own figures showed land disputes had significantly declined over the past few years, from 990 cases in 2013 to 750 cases last year, after the ministry “resolved” 240 cases. But its annual report released yesterday offered different figures still.

The government had ended 330 disputes covering a total area of 1,598 hectares and involving 2,432 families, it said. Twenty-four cases were dismissed and 62 withdrawn by the complainants, the report noted.

Ou Vordy, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, stressed the difficulty of assessing and mediating land disputes during the launch of the report yesterday.

“The process of solving the disputes takes a long time, because we need to conduct site inspections, and the land management of the dispute sides is unclear, and all of them want to win,” she said.

Bin Chhin, a deputy prime minister who includes land dispute resolution in his portfolio, said the government was hard at work to improve land management and distribution in the hopes of meeting its poverty reduction goals.

“We keep working towards land solutions through all of the national land management committees and administrative committees in order to reduce the number of land disputes,” he said.

But the government is working with insufficient data, according to Licadho.

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator at the rights group, said the government’s reliance only on official data from its agencies meant it was not in a position to assess the true scale of the current land rights crisis.

“I think the Ministry of Land Management should study our report and find resolutions for people who have suffered real land disputes,” he said.

Data released by Licadho last April showed that Cambodia had passed what it called a “shameful milestone”, with land conflicts having affected more than half a million people since 2000.

 

13 Montagnards recommended for asylum

3 Mar

By:Taing Vida, The Phnom Penh Post   March 03, 2015

Thirteen Montagnard asylum seekers who arrived in Phnom Penh in December after weeks spent in hiding in Ratanakkiri province have been recommended for refugee status by immigration officials.

Mom Sophanarith, deputy director of the Interior Ministry’s refugee department, said on Tuesday that the 13 have met all the conditions to be eligible for refugee status but still need to be officially recognized.

“These 13 Montagnards have come and requested [refugee status] since last year, and we have learned that their request is true, unlike those [illegal Vietnamese immigrants] who come to dig cassava or for logging,” he said.

The group of 12 men and one woman, who arrived in Cambodia in October, claim to have fled religious persecution in Vietnam, where the northern minority hill tribes have been subjected to police raids, arrests, beatings and forced renunciations of their Christian faith.
Ten more Montagnards have also reached Phnom Penh in recent weeks, where they are awaiting registration.

Sophanarith confirmed that their requests for asylum are not yet being processed.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached on Tuesday. But he told the Post last month that even if the Montagnards are recognised as refugees, if they are rejected from third countries, they will be deported back to the very place they fled.

Dozens more Montagnards have been deported back to Vietnam in recent weeks, where they claim to have been interrogated and beaten by authorities, and put under house arrest.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, a group of 36 was detained and deported while attempting to reach the capital. An ethnic Jarai villager who was assisting them was also reportedly arrested and has not been seen since.

Authorities have denied any knowledge of his whereabouts.

13 Montagnards Granted Asylum

3 Mar

 News by Khmer Times/Donald Lee and Nov Sivutha, Tuesday, 03 March 2015

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Some of the 13 Montagnards granted asylum being aided earlier by UN monitors.

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – Thirteen Montagnards who fled Vietnam last year have been recognized as political asylum seekers by the Interior Ministry.
The 13 refugees are now awaiting official approval of their status. They were brought to Phnom Penh with assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
All 13 asylum seekers were found to be Vietnamese Montagnards after investigation. The Interior Ministry said their claim for political asylum fulfilled the main requirements needed to attain refugee status in the Kingdom.
But the Interior Ministry has been forced to defend itself over the deportation of over 40 individuals in Ratanakiri province last week. The ministry has denied that the 40 were Montagnards seeking asylum.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirmed that Ratanakiri provincial authorities deported more than 40 individuals claiming to be asylum seekers last week.
Reports have been circulating of possible abuse suffered by those deported by authorities in Cambodia or Vietnam. UN officials were forcibly barred from traveling to Ratanakiri and were unable to meet with the individuals who were deported.
“OHCHR does not have access to the persons who were deported and thus cannot comment on whether they were harmed during transport,” OHCHR spokesperson Wan-Hea Lee told Khmer Times.
The Interior Ministry has maintained that the people caught crossing the Cambodia-Vietnam border in the remote O’Yadaw district of Ratanakiri province are economic migrants crossing the frontier illegally.
“The immigration activity here consists of illegal Vietnamese migrants crossing the border into Ratanakiri province,” Uk Hai Sela, head of investigations at the Interior Ministry’s immigration department, told Khmer Times. “There aren’t any Montagnards [in this case]. We don’t see any evidence that they are Montagnards—so those people are Vietnamese, and they possess IDs [stating] Vietnamese citizenship.”
He added that it’s the provincial authorities’ role to uphold border control laws and apprehend any group found crossing the border without any proper legal documentation. The refugees are arrested, questioned and the government “deports them back.”
According to the Interior Ministry, individuals found to be illegal migrants are only sent to the ministry’s immigration department for processing when the person is found to have stayed in Cambodia for a considerable amount of time. But in the case of individuals caught in the act of crossing the border illegally, the “provincial police can deport them back,” said Mr. Sela.
Rights groups have contended that the Cambodian government should follow proper protocols and procedures, and allow anyone claiming to be an asylum seeker to have safe transport to Phnom Penh to have their refugee claims verified and processed.
“The UN cannot speculate on the reasons why instructions were not transmitted from the central government to local authorities, or at what level of government the decision was taken to refoule these individuals,” said Wan-Hea Lee.

Areng Valley Activist Denies Illegal Logging Allegations

3 Mar

By: Khuon Narim , The Cambodia Daily, | March 03, 2015

An environmental activist in Koh Kong province’s Areng Valley on Monday denied building an ecotourism information center with illegally logged wood after he was summoned to the local court to answer questions over alleged forestry crimes.

Ven Vorn, 36—who is ethnic Chong and worked closely with recently deported Spanish activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson to oppose a planned hydropower dam in the valley—has been summoned to appear before the Koh Kong Provincial Court on March 10.

Despite the summons stating clearly that the Forestry Administration’s Koh Kong cantonment filed a complaint against Mr. Vorn in January, the cantonment chief, Oum Meakeary, denied any involvement. Rights workers with knowledge of the case say the administration accuses him of cutting down trees inside a protected forest for the information center.

“I did not commit what I am accused of,” Mr. Vorn said Monday.

“The timber I bought from local residents for building a community office for ecotourism.”

The activist said construction of the center began in January and finished Tuesday, using just 10 cubic meters of wood and at a cost of $1,500. Mr. Vorn said he would heed the summons.

“I am not afraid of being arrested because I acted in the public’s interest, not my personal interest.”

Police Deny Arrest of 36 Montagnards

3 Mar

By: Chris Mueller and Aun Pheap , The Cambodia Daily, | March 03, 2015

The chief of police in Ratanakkiri province on Monday denied that authorities arrested 36 Montagnards, who the U.N. and local villagers say were deported to Vietnam last week while attempting to reach Phnom Penh to apply for asylum.

Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Sunday that the group was arrested and deported on Wednesday.

An ethnic Jarai villager, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the group was arrested in the early hours of Friday morning in Ratanakkiri’s Kon Mom district. The villager, who had been aiding the Montagnards since their arrival, said another local Jarai man was also arrested as he attempted to lead the group to Phnom Penh.

On Monday, however, Ratanakkiri police chief Nguon Koeun denied that the Montagnards—an indigenous group from Vietnam’s Central Highlands—were arrested by officers in the province.

“We have not arrested these 36 people,” Mr. Koeun said. “The information about the arrests is not true.”

Asked if police were searching for any Montagnards in the province, Mr. Koeun said, “I don’t know,” then hung up on a reporter.

Provincial spokesman Moeung Sineath said that he had not been told whether the 36 were arrested.

“But I think that our Ratanakkiri provincial authorities did not arrest those people, including the Khmer Jarai villager,” he said.

Mr. Sineath said last week that Lumphat district police arrested four other Montagnards and passed them to Vietnamese authorities on February 24.

Asked whether Cambodia had handed over the Montagnards to Vietnam, the deputy spokeswoman for Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Pham Thu Hang, would not say.

“Relevant agencies of Vietnam are verifying the information,” Ms. Hang said in an email.

“However, it is noted that, like in other countries, those who immigrate illegally will be dealt [with] in accordance with legal regulations of related countries and…international law,” she added.

Since the latest wave of Montagnards began arriving in Cambodia in late October, provincial- and district-level officials in Ratanakkiri have repeatedly said that they were not legitimate asylum seekers and threatened to deport them if they were found.

On Monday, Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Cambodia had not deported any Montagnards—and claimed there had never been any in the country.

“We are deporting illegal immigrants only,” General Sopheak said.

“They don’t have documents. We are doing the same as other countries if people come without passports,” he added, before hanging up.

The 1951 Refugee Convention, which Cambodia signed in 1992, explicitly states that asylum seekers may have to break immigration laws and should not be punished for doing so.

Vivian Tan, regional press officer for the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees, said in an email that signatories to the convention are legally bound to abide by it.

“Even if a country has not signed the Convention, refoulement—sending people back to a place where their lives or freedoms could be in danger—is prohibited by customary international law,” Ms. Tan said.

“There is no lawful excuse for the reported deportations,” she added.

Andrea Giorgetta, head of the Asia Desk at the International Federation for Human Rights, also said the deportation of the Montagnards was a clear violation of international law, but that Cambodia would not face any sanctions for ignoring its obligations.

“The refugee convention has no enforcing mechanism so they don’t face anything under it,” Mr. Giorgetta said. “It is unfortunate, but that’s how international law works for the time being.”

All of the Montagnards who have crossed into Cambodia since October have claimed to be escaping religious and political persecution in Vietnam.

Beginning in 2001, thousands of Montagnards fled to Cambodia after Hanoi violently suppressed land- and religious-rights demonstrations. About 2,000 were resettled in the U.S., while the rest were deported.

In 2011, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a scathing report describing how Vietnamese authorities were systematically targeting Montagnard Protestant churches and arresting anyone deemed a threat.

Those arrested were reportedly tortured, the report says.

In an email Monday, Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said it was difficult to assess the circumstances facing the Montagnards in the Central Highlands.

“The reason is that the Vietnam government very strictly controls access to those areas for all foreigners, whether it be UN, diplomats, journalists, or NGOs, and keeps Montagnard communities under close surveillance by the police and security forces,” he said.

“So to put it frankly, many areas of the Central Highlands continue to be in de facto lockdown by state authorities, which helps explain why Montagnards feel they must flee across the border to Cambodia.”

Refugee helper missing

2 Mar

By:Phak Seangly and Alice Cuddy, The Phnom Penh Post   March 02, 2015

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Montagnards from Vietnam pose for a photo in Ratanakkiri earlier this year after they fled to Cambodia to escape persecution from Vietnamese authorities. ADHOC

A Cambodian national who was allegedly arrested on Thursday alongside dozens of Montagnard asylum seekers remained missing yesterday, while those sent back to Vietnam were reportedly abused by authorities for their attempted escape.

Forty-two-year-old Dy Heun, an ethnic Jarai from Ratanakkiri province, was officially reported missing yesterday to local rights group Adhoc.

Heun, who has been assisting groups of Montagnards – indigenous people from Vietnam’s central highlands – seeking refuge in Cambodia in recent months, arranged transport to Phnom Penh on Wednesday for 36 of the asylum seekers in the hope that the UN would be able to help them when they reached the capital.

But the group was blocked by Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities in Konmom district at around 3am on Thursday, according to the district’s deputy police chief, Ren Muth, who assisted in the arrests.
Ahead of the arrests, Muth said he was ordered by provincial police to rally 10 armed police officers, but was not told why.

According to Muth, joint forces including Vietnamese and border police hid in an area in Chres commune awaiting the group.

Authorities had been informed of the asylum seekers’ whereabouts by a network of spies that included the drivers transporting them to the capital, he added.

When the group arrived “they were blocked and surrounded outright”.

The “van doors were opened and the Montagnards were ordered to put their hands up, and pushed into other vans. They were stunned; pale with sad expressions on their faces”.

Muth said he was not sure why the Montagnards were arrested. “Maybe there is a problem [with them being here], otherwise the Vietnamese police would not hunt them from Vietnam to Cambodian territory.”

While he confirmed the arrest and deportation of the asylum seekers, Muth said he was unsure what had happened to Heun.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said deportees had reported that Heun was arrested at the scene and driven away in a separate van.

His family, who reported him missing, have not heard from him since Wednesday.

“Even if Heun was a murderer and arrested, police should have told his family. It violates human rights,” Thy said.

Heun’s wife, Sam Kanhar, said her husband left home at around 1pm on Wednesday.

“He told me he was going out but didn’t tell me where he was going. I don’t know where he is or what happened. We are contacting the deportees in Vietnam to ask about him,” she said.

Central government and provincial officials yesterday denied any knowledge of Heun’s whereabouts or of the Montagnards’ deportation.

Wan-Hea Lee, country director for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said OHCHR has so far been “unable” to discuss the deportations with government officials.

She added that OHCHR was not aware of Heun’s arrest.

While concerns over Heun’s safety increased yesterday, Thy said the deportees had reported varying degrees of abuse back in Vietnam.

Most of “the deportees were just slapped before being allowed to go home. But before putting him in prison, the ringleader was hit in the eye and mouth, breaking his teeth, for leading them to Cambodia,” he said.

Twenty-three other Montagnards are currently in Phnom Penh applying for asylum. But the Interior Ministry said last month that if they are recognised as refugees but rejected from third countries, they will be deported.

David Manne, executive director of the Australia-based Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre, said there “can be no more serious and flagrant breach of obligations under the Refugee Convention than to expel people seeking asylum back to the seat of feared persecution without a fair and proper assessment of their claims for protection”.

The treatment of the Montagnards, he said, is particularly concerning in light of the $35-million refugee resettlement deal that Cambodia signed with Australia last year.

“It underscores fundamental concerns that Cambodia is not willing or able to protect refugees and is not a suitable country to send refugees for resettlement.”

 

Areng Activist Summoned Over Deforestation Complaint

2 Mar

By: Hul Reaksmey , The Cambodia Daily, | March 02, 2015

The Koh Kong Provincial Court has summoned an environmental activist living in the Areng Valley for questioning over allegations that he felled trees in a forest in order to build a community center, rights workers said Sunday.

The summons, dated February 25 and signed by prosecutor Bou Bun Hang, orders Ven Vorn, 36—an ethnic Chong villager who worked closely with recently deported Spanish activist Alex Gonzalez-Davidson—to appear before the court on March 10 to answer questions over a complaint filed against him by the Forestry Administration’s Koh Kong cantonment in January.

The summons does not say what Mr. Vorn is accused of, and court officials could not be reached.

However, In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the Forestry Administration claims Mr. Vorn cut down trees inside a designated forest in order to build a community center in Thma Baing district’s Chumnap commune. He said the accusation was groundless, and meant to intimidate an activist vocally opposed to a planned hydropower dam that would flood the Areng Valley and force him and hundreds of other Chong villagers from their ancestral land.

“The forestry officials filed a legal complaint against him,” Mr. Kongchet said. “But he didn’t do anything against the law. He just cut down normal trees to build a community center for holding meetings.”

“He [Mr. Vorn] joined hands with Mr. Alex to protect the forest because he didn’t want a hydropower dam in Areng to be constructed. This is an act of using the court system to threaten him, to reduce his courage.”

Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson was deported last month on the grounds that he helped set up an illegal roadblock on the main route leading into the valley in September.

Oum Meakeary, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Koh Kong cantonment, denied that anyone in the office had filed a complaint against Mr. Vorn.

“If he goes to court, he will find out who filed a complaint against him,” he said, refusing to comment further.

Sun Mala, who co-founded the NGO Mother Nature with Mr. Gonzalez-Davidson in an effort to prevent construction of the 108-MW Stung Cheay Areng dam, said the timing of the Forestry Administration’s complaint against Mr. Vorn was suspicious.

“This could be an intimidation strategy, because when Mr. Alex was there, there was no complaint,” he said.

“This is a strategy to threaten and split up the community voices so the company can go develop a dam inside Areng.”

Mr. Vorn could not be reached on Sunday, but both Mr. Kongchet and Mr. Mala said he would heed the court summons.

Villagers Call on Spirit to Curse Officials, Company Behind Dam

2 Mar

By: Aun Pheap , The Cambodia Daily, | March 02, 2015

Villagers in Stung Treng province displeased local authorities on Saturday by holding a traditional ceremony calling upon a powerful local spirit to curse those behind the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 dam.

During the ceremony, some 300 members of the Lao and Bunong ethnic minorities marched about 10 km to a shrine dedicated to the local deity Neak Ta Krahomkor, or “Red Neck Spirit,” in Sesan district’s Srekor commune, asking him to protect the villagers from harm and curse the officials and investors behind the dam.

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Villagers in Stung Treng province who oppose the construction of the Lower Sesan 2 dam march on Saturday to a shrine where a powerful local spirit is believed to live, in advance of a ceremony they held to curse the officials and businessmen behind the project. (Matt Walker)

“The villagers…prayed to the spirit of Neak Ta Krahormkor to use magic to stop the construction of the hydroelectric dam,” said Bun Thann, a program coordinator for the 3S River Protection Network, which has been campaigning against the dam.

His and other environmental groups say the 400-megawatt dam, which is being constructed on two tributaries of the Mekong River, will deplete fisheries and displace about 5,000 people living in the Mekong River basin.

After praying to the Neak Ta spirit, promising to sacrifice two buffalos for him if he stopped further construction of the dam, the villagers set up four effigies known as “ting moungs,” representing Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem, construction company owner Chip Mong, Hydro Lancang company officials and local authorities who helped green-light the project.

“The villagers cursed all the people involved with the construction, saying they are going to die without being buried in the land,” Mr. Thann explained.

Vuth Khoeun, one of those who participated in the ceremony, said villagers ritually stabbed and burned the effigies, which were made of clothes stuffed with rice.

“We stabbed the ting moungs with a sharp stick, meaning that we killed the people involved with the construction of the hydroelectric dam, then we burned the bodies of those people,” he said.

Deputy district governor Doung Pov said he was not happy about the spectacle, and blamed villagers for failing to inform local authorities about the ritual cursing, as well as “violating the rights of investors.”

“I understand that it is a right of the villagers to celebrate a Buddhist ceremony, but they violated the rights of investors because they cursed them,” he said.

“We will find out who is…behind the villagers and then I will report to the upper levels,” he added.

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