Four Villagers Summoned in Land-Grab Case

Four residents of a Prey Veng province village where a teenager was shot dead during a land dispute with local officials have been summoned for questioning at the provincial court for allegedly causing unspecified injuries during the fracas.

Court Director and Investi­ga­ting Judge Chea Nol, who issued the summons for Wednesday, said Monday that he would be unclear on the details of the case until the four Peam Chor district villagers attend court. He said that this was the third summons the villagers had been issued over the Dec 14 confrontation, adding that he will issue arrest warrants for them if they do not attend.

According to rights workers, Yeng Socheat, 17, was killed when security forces opened fire on villagers as they approached Peam Chor deputy district governor Y Sam Ol on disputed land in Koh Sampov commune. Local of­ficials have said that the gunmen opened fire in self defense after the villagers tried to attack them, and that Yeng Socheat’s death was accidental.

Sar Theang, 38, one of the four villagers summoned, denied injuring anyone and said he may not attend court as he fears he will be arrested. He added that he has received only one summons, dat­ed Feb 26.

Men Makara, provincial coordinator for local rights group Ad­hoc, said the legal action is aimed at weakening the villagers’ will to protest against local officials over land issues.

“This is to break down the groups, so they do not have the force to protest,” he said.

Rights workers claim the Dec 14 dispute was the fifth in a wave of recent shootings of villagers in the district over two land disputes. Local officials who allegedly opened fire Dec 5 and injured two villagers have yet to be prosecuted, as have Yeng Socheat’s killers, Men Makara said.

Provincial Police Chief Tim Phan said he could not arrest any officials without a warrant from the court. “How can [we] arrest them if there is no arrest warrant?” he asked.

 

 

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