The Ministry of Justice will question two senior Kompong Speu provincial court officials over arrest warrants that have been issued for more than 20 villagers in the province involved in a land dispute, a ministry official said Friday.
Justice Ministry Tuot Lux said the ministry is concerned that the warrants, which have led to nine arrests and prompted other villagers in Oral district to go into hiding, may have violated legal procedures.
Tuot Lux declined to name the two officials, but said the ministry “has called them in for questioning in front of a committee.” The ministry’s investigating committee will question the pair on Jan 10, he said.
The arrest warrants were issued in November after a land dispute turned violent, when soldiers were sent to guard a disputed plot of land where the villagers live in Oral’s Sangke Sratob commune, on behalf of unnamed RCAF officers who also claim the land.
Police allegedly beat villagers and fired bullets in the air when villagers protested their presence, Roth Thavy, an investigator with local rights group Adhoc said at the time. The district governor has said villagers carrying weapons chased officials.
The court’s deputy prosecutor Ou Phat said he had heard that he would be questioned by the committee, along with the court’s deputy director Phang Samon, who could not be contacted.
Chhe Vibol, a lawyer with Adhoc, welcomed the news.
“These arrests were made to intimidate protestors,” he said.
Hang Sok, a 70-year-old from the district who is in hiding, urged the ministry to help ensure the release of his daughter Hang Chanroeun, 28, who was arrested on Dec 25 along with her husband Bou Nara, 30, and seven other people.
“The ministry should go down and investigate at the site,” he said. “I want the court to release them all.”