Five villagers involved in a land dispute in Kompong Speu province’s Oral district were detained in prison on Wednesday on charges of violently encroaching on other peoples’ land, officials said.
Four men were arrested in Phnom Penh on Tuesday and a fifth woman was arrested Wednesday morning at her home on the disputed land in Sangke Satoap commune, rights workers said.
“Police are looking to make more arrests,” said Chan Soveth, program officer for local rights group Adhoc.
Kompong Speu Provincial Police Chief Nop Oeurn said that he has received 32 warrants from the Kompong Speu court to arrest 43 villagers accused of inciting and leading other villagers to violently encroach on the land.
Many of the suspects are in hiding, including about 50 men who fled to the jungle following the Nov 14 incident when armed police, soldiers and villagers were involved in a violent fracas, Chan Soveth added.
Soeng Chamnan, a villager who escaped from Tuesday’s raid in Phnom Penh, said Wednesday that only elderly people and children are living at the disputed land to guard the villagers’ homes.
“Those officials who claimed ownership of the land have many nice villas. They should not grab our land and use their power to arrest us who are innocent villagers,” she said.
Hang Samnang, 45, appealed to authorities to release her imprisoned husband Um Sovan on bail. She added that they were not land-grabbers, saying they had legally bought their land in 2000.