200 Villagers Protest Arrest in Kompong Cham

About 200 people gathered Saturday in Kompong Cham town to protest what they say was the wrongful arrest of two men accused of theft.

Chhang Vanna and Ham Tim were arrested Friday. Police ac­cused them of stealing resin from trees on other people’s land.

But human rights activists say the men were targeted by authorities as a reprisal for leading land grab protests in Kompong Cham and Phnom Penh in 1999 and 2000.

They say the men were tapping trees on land that had been grab­bed from them.

The land grab protests prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to in­tervene, writing personally to local officials and ordering them to return the land. But rights officials say authorities ignored the order, and 56 of the 200 families are still waiting to get their land back.

Kompong Cham deputy police chief Seng Sokhim said the families do not have legitimate claims to the land and authorities have returned it to its rightful owners.

The protesters, from Cham­roeun Pal village in Chamkar Leu district, vowed to stage more de­mon­strations until the men are released.


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