Several NGOs are planning to meet today to compile lists of villagers jailed over land disputes to submit to the Justice Ministry following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s March 15 pledge to free such prisoners, rights workers said.
A draft Licadho report counted 38 prisoners in 13 provinces and municipalities but did not address other areas, which will be discussed today.
Kompong Speu province had the highest number, with 10 prisoners, and Takeo province and Pailin municipality were tied for second with nine prisoners each.
The only known release since the prime minister’s order was of two Ratanakkiri province men on the day Hun Sen made the announcement during a meeting of the National Authority for Solving Land Disputes.
The Licadho report counted a total of 107 villagers jailed over land disputes in 13 provinces and municipalities since February 2005, though 69 had already been released before the March 15 meeting.
Land dispute prisoners are accused of a variety of crimes, ranging from comparatively minor offenses like defamation and illegal selling of land to more serious, violent crimes, according to the Licadho report.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said prison officials were “ready and eager” to release prisoners immediately once they received the order from the Ministry of Justice. Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana could not be reached for comment.
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