Police Arrest Six Villagers Accused of Fraud

Police in Battambang arrested six villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a local businessman on Wednes­day after 10 other villagers accused them of defrauding families in the area, deputy provincial governor Uy Ry said yesterday.

However, villagers and rights workers in Kors Kralor district said the arrests were merely designed to put pressure on the community, which has been locked in the dispute over land in Dounba commune for the past five years.

The arrests came shortly after more than 1,000 families in the area made a re­quest for student volunteers to de­marcate their land under the government’s new land-titling project.

“Our authorities will send Hun Sen’s student volunteers to measure land for them [the villagers], but we need to resolve the land dispute first,” said Mr. Ry. Meng Ly, provincial monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said that Yim Virak, 42; Sar Samon, 38; Khoeun Sareth, 59; Dy Vuth, 39; Riem Run, 45; and Chhuoy Sin, 41, were arrested by provincial police on Wednesday.

“Those 1,000 families have been intimidated by powerful men and military police,” he said. “We appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s student volunteers to measure our land in order to stop the intimidation and disruption of our villagers’ farming,” said villager Dy Socheat, 57. “Our six representatives were arrested on July 18 and accused of cheating other villagers of their money, but in fact, the cheaters are the local authorities.”

Sopheap, 57, a villager who de­clined to give her full name for fear of retribution from the local authorities, said that between July 7 and 12, military and district police collected the thumbprints of several villagers, ostensibly as part of the land-titling process. “In fact, they tricked us. They collected our thumbprints as complaints against our six representatives for cheating villagers of their money,” she said.

About 100 villagers in the area yesterday traveled to the CPP’s provincial headquarters to request that the student volunteers measure their land. The villagers also attempted to protest outside the provincial court to demand the release of the six arrested men, only to be blocked by police.

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