3 Sihanoukville Suspects Jailed, Other in Clinic

Three men arrested Thursday during a confrontation with Sihanoukville military police have been sent to the municipal prison, while a fourth man shot by military police remained in a Phnom Penh clinic, officials and villagers said.

Municipal Prosecutor Meas Sopheak confirmed that the three men had been sent to the municipal prison ahead of trial. He referred further questions to his deputy Mak Pheang, who could not be reached.

On Thursday, military police intervened after villagers engaged in a land dispute with a development company destroyed a fence that had been built around their homes in January. Villager Vath Pheap was shot through both hands and in the thigh during the ensuing confrontation.

A fifth man arrested at the scene was released later in the evening Thursday. Contacted by telephone Sunday, the 28-year-old, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was released after proving to officials that he was a Cambodian-American visitor and not a protestor.

“I was playing volleyball, and when there was violence I ran to see and the military police arrested me,” he said.

The man said the three men who had been arrested were innocent of any violence against the military police, adding that they had simply come to the aid of the wounded Vath Pheap.

Municipal Governor Say Hak on Sunday reiterated the military police’s previous contention that they were acting in self-defense, but said that he did not support the shooting.

“Let the court take legal action,” he said.

He added that though 125 families claim to own property in the 13.7 hectares under dispute, only 27 actually have any rightful claims. He said the municipality will negotiate fair compensation for those 27 families.

Villager Chheang Sokhen, 28, said Vath Pheap, whom she accompanied to Phnom Penh, remained in a clinic in the capital under military police guard.

“He will be OK to walk,” she said, “but both his hands will not be able to do anything anymore.”

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