Government replaces Preah Sihanouk governors sacked over Koki clash

P. Sihanouk: Two Preah Sihanouk province deputy governors were appointed on Monday, replacing their predecessors who were removed over a violent land dispute in January this year.

On March 1, the prime minister dismissed the deputy governors and ordered the Anti-Corruption Unit and the Ministry of Interior to further investigate their involvement in a long-running land dispute that led to violent clashes between security forces and villagers at Koki village in Prey Nop district’s Bit Traing commune.

The altercation occurred on January 24, when around 200 members of the joint security forces implemented a Supreme Court ruling that granted the disputed land to nine families who originally owned it.

Around 300 villagers who claimed to own part of the land responded by blocking the road and throwing Molotov cocktails to obstruct them, prompting the authorities to fire gunshots, injuring one construction worker.

In a sub-decree dated March 13, Hun Sen appointed Liem Sochea, former Oddar Meanchey province deputy governor, and Mang Sineth, a former administrative official at the Ministry of Commerce, to their positions as provincial deputy governors.

They replaced Srun Sron and Phay Bunvannak, who were removed on March 1.

Ministry of Interior secretary of state Sak Setha, who presided over the title conferring ceremony, urged the new deputy governors to protect natural resources, address water shortages during the dry season and improve security in the coastal province.

“Please keep working to protect the environment, be attentive in maintaining security and open up opportunities for long-term development,” he said.

On natural resource preservation, Setha instructed the deputy governors to ensure that environmental impact assessments are carried out before the execution of any development projects.

Setha also commended provincial authorities for their efforts in, among other things, ensuring safety for both local and international tourists.

“Such achievements have contributed to national economic growth . . . and improvements in people’s living standards,” he said.