A villager trying to stop land and timber giant Pheapimex Co Ltd from clearing the forest in his Pursat province commune has been arrested and accused of threatening to kill company employees, officials and villagers said Sunday.
Pursat provincial court Prosecutor Kong Bin said a number of Pheapimex employees filed a complaint against Nhem Hul, 52, in November, but he couldn’t remember the exact date the alleged threats were made or when the court complaint was filed.
Nhem Hul was arrested Dec 27 after he went to the Pursat military police station to answer questions related to the employees’ complaints, Krakor district police Chief Bin Vanna said, adding that an arrest warrant had been issued by the court.
Kuch Veng, a representative of farmers in Krakor district’s Kbal Trach and Angsar Chambak communes, said Sunday that villagers only learned of Nhem Hul’s arrest on Jan 5. Kuch Veng said a police official had told him that Nhem Hul might also be charged with a grenade attack that injured eight protesting farmers on Nov 13.
But Bin Vanna said he did not know whether Nhem Hul would be charged with the attack, and prosecutor Kong Bin said the case is still under investigation and would not say whether the villager would face additional charges.
Kuch Veng said Nhem Hul had been actively working to stop Pheapimex from cutting trees and had accused the police of being behind the grenade attack.
Villagers in the two communes have been trying to keep Pheapimex from clear-cutting forests on their land for months.
Kuch Veng said villagers dropped more than 500 leaflets near the jungle where workers were cutting trees, encouraging the workers to stop cutting and instead work to protect the forest.
Opposition party leader Sam Rainsy visited Angsa Chambak commune Wednesday and said the number of employees working at the site has more than doubled to 700 over the past few months.