Illegal Gold Miners in Court After Violence

Three suspects accused of illegally mining for gold in Mondolkiri province will be sent to court today for more questioning, four days after a government crackdown prompted an armed mob to attack provincial officials and military police, officials said on Monday.

About 200 villagers attacked nearly 20 Mondolkiri provincial officials and military police officers at the illegal mining site in Pech Chreada district after authorities tried to shut it down on Friday, San Sarith, director of the provincial mines and energy department, said on Monday.

“Some climbed up trees to throw rocks and bottles of gasoline,” Mr. Sarith said.

Four people were arrested, including the landowner.

Court prosecutor San Sopheak said the three remaining suspects would be questioned again today.

Mr. Sarith said the villagers had been mining the site illegally for up to three months.

On Friday, two drivers were arrested and a pair of excavators was confiscated at about 6 p.m. before a mob of about 50 villagers, most of whom worked at the site, came to demand their release, Mr. Sarith said.

“First, they came to ask for the release of the drivers in order to allow them to eat dinner. We agreed to let the drivers go,” Mr. Sarith said. “Later, they gathered about 200 people.”

He said the mob was armed with sticks, rocks, machetes and flaming bottles of gasoline, adding that they attacked and managed to force the release of the excavators while the officials ran into the forest.

More officials and police arrived early on Saturday, leading to the arrests of the excavator owner, the landowner and two drivers, though one escaped soon after.

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