The chairman of the National Assembly’s human rights commission on Thursday requested that Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim intervene on behalf of two villagers who were arrested upon returning to Kampot province on Tuesday after protesting in Phnom Penh.
Speaking to reporters after a three-hour closed-door session, opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said he had summoned Mr. Chhun Lim to ask that he intervene on behalf of the two villagers from Kampot and another woman who has been detained for about two months on charges related to a land dispute in Phnom Penh.
“The commission has asked the senior minister to intervene and release the three detainees,” Mr. Chhay Eang said. “Usually, if they want to arrest people related to land issues, they have to create a link to the issue.”
“The protesters of the land issue [in Kampot] have been accused of obstructing public officials…. They have been linked with other things, but the original source is from the land issue,” he said.
Mr. Chhun Lim told reporters that seven land dispute cases were discussed during the meeting, and that his ministry would review the arrests in Kampot.
“Relating to the arrests and detainment, they were based on the legal framework and we promise to review them with our experts in the ministry,” he said.
Hing Chhum, deputy chief of the Kampot provincial police’s penal bureau, confirmed that Ly Kemthuy, 34, and Ly Kemheang, 47, were arrested in Chhuk district’s Decho Aphivat commune on Tuesday for obstructing officials.
Mr. Chhum said the men had prevented a joint team of provincial officials, land management officials, police and military police from measuring land, but said he did not know the date of the crime.
“Police handed them over to provincial military police for preparing documents to send to the court,” Mr. Chhum said.
Deputy provincial prosecutor Khann Sophal said the two were questioned in court Thursday and returned to military police custody, with questioning set to continue today.
Their arrests came after the pair returned on Monday from a protest in Phnom Penh, where they had protested at Freedom Park and submitted a petition to the National Assembly calling for assurances that 816 families would receive a promised 1,337-hectare social land concession.
Although authorities have insisted that the land will be demarcated as planned, about 200 representatives of the families came to Phnom Penh complaining that the demarcation process was being done without transparency, heightening fears that their plots would be given to retired soldiers who have also been promised land in the area.