Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana has written to the Siem Reap Provincial Court, requesting that court officials speed up a long-running investigation into a violent land dispute in the province’s Chi Kreng district, a prosecutor said yesterday.
Provincial court prosecutor Ty Sovannthal said yesterday that Mr Vong Vattana wrote to the court earlier this month, the second time the justice minister has asked court officials to move the case along.
The land dispute in Chi Kreng district escalated into a violent confrontation in March of last year, when police allegedly opened fire on a group of farmers protesting against the loss of their land. Four farmers were injured in the shooting.
The farmers were part of a group of about 200 families in Chi Kreng district’s Chi Kreng commune who claim that authorities have illegally plotted to sell 475 hectares of their farmland.
“We have worked on the case without stopping,” Mr Sovannthal said. “We have been questioning about 300 people to find the shooters but we have not yet identified them.”
Justice Ministry officials were unavailable yesterday.
Am Sam Ath, a senior monitor at the human rights group Licadho, called on the provincial court to act with a “strong will.”
Mr Sam Ath added that while 12 villagers had been arrested and jailed for taking part in the dispute, the shooters had been able to avoid detection.
“Why are the villagers arrested and imprisoned but those involved in the shooting have never been arrested?” he asked.
Mr Sovannthal said he was unhappy with NGOs who he said constantly asked the Justice Ministry to intervene in the case, adding that organizations should work closely with him instead of writing complaints to the government.
“Please, NGOs, do not disturb the high-level officials,” he said. “Please don’t look down on me.”
Sot Nordy, Siem Reap provincial police chief, said yesterday that police were waiting for the court to issue warrants before taking any further action.