Court in Siem Reap Tries 2 for Chi Kreng Courthouse Protest

Siem Reap Provincial Court yesterday tried two men with contempt and illegal confinement for their role in allegedly locking the courthouse doors during a Jan 2009 protest over a Chi Kreng district land dispute, Judge Chhay Kong said.

The verdict is to be announced Friday, along with the verdict in a separate court case in which nine men are charged with attempted murder for their alleged roles in a March 2009 clash with authorities in the same land dispute, Judge Kong said.

The court yesterday heard the case of Klin Eang and Chheng Savoeun, who are each charged with “contempt and illegally confining court officials” during last January’s protest, Judge Kong said by telephone.

He declined to comment on why the court had not taken action over allegations that authorities opened fire on and wounded four villagers in March’s clash in An­long Samnor commune.

The violent clash came after villagers accused authorities of ille­ga­lly plotting to sell 475 hec­tares of their land.

Mr Eang and Mr Savoeun de­nied during yesterday’s trial that they locked the doors of the courthouse during the protest, which was held in an attempt to free three villagers arrested in the dispute, said Sours Narin, provincial mon­­­­itor for local rights group Adhoc.

“The two accused pleaded with the court to set them free, because their families have a difficult time eking out a living,” Mr Narin said.

Mr Eang has been detained since April, while Mr Savoeun has been detained since last March, he said.

About 200 villagers from Chi Kreng district attended yesterday’s trial, said Touk Ponloek, a nephew of Mr Savoeun.

Buddhist monk Loun Sovath al­so attended the trial despite a request by religious authorities that he stay away after court officials said he had disrupted past proceedings at the court.

Reached by telephone, Loun Sovath said, “I want to share suffering with the villagers, because they now feel sorrow.”

 

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