Around 90 villagers in Battambang province protested outside the provincial court and military police headquarters on June 8 over the arrests of six Bavel district villagers who were arrested for farming on disputed land, officials said.
Long Lim, SRP deputy chief of Khnai Romeas commune, said by telephone that protesters from Chroy Sna village are demanding the release of the six men, who were arrested June 7.
He said that the land belongs to the villagers and that they would protest until the men are released or the court explains why they were arrested.
“It is the villagers’ land,” said Long Lim. “We came just to ask the court why they were arrested for just plowing land,” he said.
The villagers have farmed the land since 1992, but in 1999, 22 local businessmen claimed that they had titles to the land, he said.
Diep Kulam, a Legal Aid of Cambodia attorney representing the detained men, said that another villager was arrested and charged in November with destruction of property after farming on the same plot of land. That villager is still in pre-trial detention, he said.
Provincial Chief Prosecutor Sar Yosthavrak said that he had not yet charged the six men.
“The military police didn’t finish compiling the case yet,” he said, adding that he did not know what the villagers might be charged with. “They were caught in the act,” Sar Yosthavrak. “They bulldozed the disputed land before the case had been resolved,” he said.
Provincial Military Police Commander Por Vannak said that he was following the court’s order when he arrested the villagers.