B Meanchey Court Charges 31 For Illegal Land Sale, Protests

Officials at the Banteay Mean­chey Provincial Court said Tues­day that they charged a total of 31 people who were involved in an alleged illegal sale of land in Poipet July 22 and the subsequent protests two days later during the eviction of six families from that land.

“Although the arrests were made in two separate incidents, they are linked together,” said Judge Sim Kuch. “We will hold the trial for the two cases together someday next week.”

Last Wednesday, police arrested Mom Pich and Bon Ra and charged them with illegally selling the land of Touch Sovan Phally, a businessman in Poipet, just two days before six families were due to be evicted from the contested land. A third party allegedly involved in the sale is still on the run.

Then, on Friday, residents and tailors employed at the buildings on the land resisted the Supreme Court-ordered eviction, allegedly pelting a mixed force of police and military police with cans and other refuse.

Twenty people—including NGO workers and an SRP commune councilor—were arrested and charges of attempted murder, arson, incitement and intentional property damage were handed down by the court, Judge Kuch said.

Approximately eight of those involved in Friday’s protest could face a serious prosecution while the remainder would only receive “a slight punishment,” Judge Kuch said, before declining to provide any further details.

Mr Phally Sovan could not be reached despite repeated telephone calls Tuesday.

Phun Chhin, a provincial investigator for local rights group Licadho, said that his organization had informed the court Tues­day that two of its lawyers would be taking up the defense of those on trial.

“We only hope that the arrested people will be released soon,” he said.



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