Five villagers killed by police and military police during a bloody eviction in Poipet earlier this year have been charged with physical assault against police officers, officials said Wednesday.
The villagers were gunned down on March 21 when police and military police surrounded a contested 6-hectare plot of land in Kbal Spean village with an order to evict 218 families.
One military police officer was reportedly stabbed during the confrontation with villagers who had armed themselves with farm implements, knives and stones.
“The villagers are charged with attacking the police and military police,” said Yam Yet, chief prosecutor of Battambang provincial court, where the case has been transferred.
“This charge also includes the dead villagers. The charge was made in order to investigate whether they are guilty or not,” he said of the deceased. “The verdict will be dissolved against them if they are found guilty, because they are dead.”
In April, Yam Yet said more than 100 police and military police officers had been charged with intentional killing related to the five dead villagers. On Wednesday, however, he said he did not know specifics of the charges or who had been charged.
Nuon Sochea, an Adhoc lawyer representing some of the villagers, said 55 villagers have been charged with physical assault while 63 police and military police and one civilian have been charged with intentional killing.
“The prosecutor charged the villagers, including the dead villagers, because he did it by looking at reports” on the case, she said Wednesday. “He didn’t consider carefully.”
Three police officers and the one civilian charged in the villagers’ deaths have been arrested and detained.
Kbal Spean village representative Chey Sophat said villagers were disappointed by the charges against their dead neighbors.
“This is injustice because the authorities shot the villagers to death, and now they even charge the villagers,” he said.
Lao Mong Hay of the Center for Social Development said it was unlawful to charge the dead with a crime.
“It’s a principle of the law that there are no charges against the dead,” he said. “It’s impossible.”