Honduran police and soldiers removed some 200 peasants who had been taking part in the occupation of a palm-oil plantation in the Caribbean province of Colon.

Police spokesman Alexander Avila told Efe that some 200 peasants on Thursday "peacefully" exited the Los Laureles property, located in the Bajo Aguan region and run by the Dinant corporation on behalf of magnate Miguel Facusse, one of the richest people in Honduras.

More than 60 people have been killed in land conflicts in that region over the past three years, mostly peasants but also private security guards, the National Human Rights Commission says.

Avila said the police presence will be "intensified" due to peasants' vow to re-occupy the property.

"They left the property on their own. We didn't have to use force," the spokesman said.

The peasants began occupying Los Laureles on July 20, prompting a clash in which a private security guard suffered a gunshot wound.

A week later, peasant leaders said private guards at the property shot and killed Israel Garcia, a member of the Marca peasants organization.

One peasant died and a security guard suffered a gunshot wound on Sept. 1 at another palm-oil plantation in the same region, known as Bolero, after armed individuals occupied the property.

The National Assembly approved legislation on Aug. 1 that limits the right to bear arms in Colon to military personnel, police and private security guards in an effort to end the conflict, but peasants said the measure would not work.

President Porfirio Lobo has said several times that the conflict is "a problem of national security" and criticized the fact that people calling themselves peasants are armed with AK-47 assault rifles.

Last year, the Honduran government, plantation owners and the Muca peasants organization signed an agreement calling for more than 4,000 hectares (9,876 acres) of land to be distributed among landless families in Bajo Aguan.

The Lobo administration sent troops and police to the region last October, but the presence of the security forces has failed to stop the violence.

Under a new pact signed by Lobo on June 5, the government pledged $17 million to purchase 2,429 hectares of land from the Bajo Aguan plantation owners for distribution among poor peasants. EFE