Chi Kreng Villagers’ Trial Delayed Again

For the second time, Siem Reap Provincial Court yesterday postponed the trial of nine men who were allegedly involved in a violent land dispute in the province’s Chi Kreng district last year.

Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said he felt ill when the trial began and had to delay it until Aug 9.

“I do not want to delay the trial at all…. The villagers are very eager to know the result,” he said, adding that he had suffered dizziness as a result of a glucose deficiency.

The trial was adjourned after a half day on July 27 and had been scheduled to resume hearing witness testimony yesterday.

The land dispute in Chi Kreng district escalated into a violent confrontation in March 2009, when police allegedly opened fire on a group of farmers who claim authorities illegally plotted to sell 475 hectares of their farmland. Four farmers were injured in the clash, although no one has been arrested or charged in relation to the shooting.

On Saturday, local rights group Adhoc called on the court to release the nine villagers, who were arrested last year and charged with attempted murder for their alleged involvement in the dispute, as well as three other men currently in prison facing different charges related to the same land dispute.

“We would like to appeal [to the court] to find the perpetrators who shot at the villagers,” Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the human rights group Licadho, said yesterday.

He said the delay placed a burden on the villagers’ families, as they have to travel around 100 km from Chi Kreng district to Siem Reap City and pay for items like food and accommodation.

Mean Horn, 56, wife of Khlin Eang, 57, whom police arrested in April on separate charges from the nine villagers, said she and other villagers had sought overnight accommodation at a pagoda in the city.

“Now we have spent much money, but we have to go to Siem Reap court” for the sake of our families, she said.

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