Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak said Thursday that police will continue to arrest villagers involved in a land dispute, contrary to the stance of the police themselves.
Police arrested more than 30 villagers in a crackdown that started Nov 12, in a dispute over 125 hectares in Mittapheap district. Police will continue to arrest those for whom the court has issued warrants and those who remain on the land, Say Hak said.
“I have given them three more days to relocate, otherwise they will be arrested,” he said.
But Kol Phally, bureau chief of Sihanoukville penal police, said all villagers have moved off the land.
“I will not arrest anyone else because all the cottages have already been moved,” he said.
The confusion comes after a visit Wednesday from rights workers, said Licadho founder Kek Galabru. “We begged the authorities not to arrest the poor,” she said Thursday.
Also Thursday, Sam Phannarith, publisher for the newspaper Snadai Khmeng Wat, or Pagoda Boy Achievement News, wrote to Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, urging him to prevent police from arresting reporter Khat Ren.
The court issued a warrant for Khat Ren’s arrest, accusing him of organizing the land grab, but the reporter was innocent, Sam Phannarith said.
Officials have denied arresting reporters. Khieu Kanharith said he would look into the matter.