2 Arrested for Allegedly Shooting Village Chief

Two brothers from Kandal prov­ince’s Sa’ang district were arrested on Tuesday for allegedly shooting their village chief dead over a land dispute, police said Thursday.

Le Sok Heng, 58, was chief of Sa’ang Phnom commune’s Kom­pong Trea village, deputy district police chief Om Savuth said Thurs­day.

“He was shot because of a dispute over land on the bank of a river,” Om Savuth said.

Le Sok Heng had offered to sell a plot of land to a local family, claiming that it was public property, but Chhlart Saru, 42, claimed the land as his own, Om Savuth said.

Chhlart Saru and his 36-year-old brother, Chhlart Sarun, allegedly shot Le Sok Heng three times with an AK-47 assault rifle after they had been drinking.

They were arrested a few hours later, Om Savuth said, adding that approximately 10 percent of the land in his district has unclear ownership or is subject to dispute.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warn­ed in December that if land disputes were not solved, it could spark a “farmer revolution” against the establishment.

On March 15, Hun Sen also promised to free villagers who had been jailed over land disputes, but Sao Chanhorm, who is monitoring the releases for local rights group Licadho, said Thursday that at least 13 protestors remain in jail.

More than 100 villagers demonstrated in front of the National Assembly and delivered complaints to the commission on the protection of human rights on Thursday.

The villagers represented three separate land disputes in Banteay Meanchey and Kompong Cham provinces.

Kong Sovanny, chief of Cham­kun Spean village in Kompong Cham province’s Memot district, reported that officials there have ordered 190 families off land they had been farming for more than a decade.

He added that was unable to come to Phnom Penh with his wife and 75 other villagers because commune and district officials had denied him permission to leave his village.

“They ordered me not to go…. They accused me of leading people to rebel,” he said by telephone.

Memot district Governor Choek Sa An claimed that the villagers were clearing forested land to sell to speculators, and that they had declined his offer to negotiate in favor of protesting in Phnom Penh.

 

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