B’bang Villagers Protest Land Dispute Arrests

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.

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