Military police in Preah Vihear province on Tuesday arrested a middle-aged couple accused of threatening forestry officials with violence over a disputed plot of state land in Chheb district, officials and a rights worker said.
According to Long Sitha, deputy prosecutor at the Preah Vihear Provincial Court, Sorn Vuthy, 45, and his wife Lim Sokhim, 43, on Monday brandished large knives and axes in an attempt to intimidate officials from the Forestry Administration’s Preah Vihear cantonment who had come to negotiate with them over part of an 84-hectare tract of state land.
“We arrested them because they held knives and threatened to attack our authorities,” Mr. Sitha said, claiming they also used axes.
“This land belongs to the Forestry Administration but they have been illegally occupying the land,” he added, referring to 100 families who claim they have been living in the area since the late 2000s.
Lor Chann, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that some 50 villagers protested outside the cantonment headquarters Tuesday, calling for the couple’s release.
“I think that the reason they were arrested is because they are representatives of villagers who have protested very actively against authorities,” he said.