Authorities in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district on Thursday arrested three villagers involved in a decade-old land dispute with a man alleged to be a Phnom Penh military police officer, officials said.
Dork Net, 55, Yim Mech, 56, and Kiet Nour, 63, were arrested at their homes in Chantrea commune, said the commune police chief, Has Siyet.
“They were arrested because they’ve been in a land dispute with Soem Chhean. He is a military police officer from Phnom Penh,” Mr. Siyet said.
Mr. Siyet said the dispute involved 50 families over 64 hectares of land in the commune that had been demarcated for Mr. Chhean in 2004 but said he could not recall further details of the case.
Svay Rieng provincial prosecutor Hing Bunchea, who carried out the arrests, said the men were arrested following an order from the Supreme Court.
“We carried it out following the Supreme Court over their illegal possession of other people’s real estate,” he said, adding he also did not know any details and was only following court orders.
“It’s involved with the Land Law articles 248 and 253,” Mr. Bunchea explained.
“We sent them to the provincial prison today, as it is stipulated that their punishment is a year in jail.”
Supreme Court Vice President Khoem Pon declined to comment.
Article 248 of the 2001 Land Law deals with “infringement of ownership,” which it defines as acts that intentionally transgress on someone’s titled land.
Article 253 says that such an infringement carries a prison sentence of six months to two years.
Hun Samuth, another man involved in the dispute, said that the dispute between the 50 families and Mr. Chhean began when the man arrived with cadastral officials in 2004 and began measuring their land.
“The people struggled since ’79, then Soem Chhean arrived in 2004 to demarcate the land. He said that the land was to grow rice to feed the national military police,” Mr. Samuth said.
“I’ve filed complaints to the court 12 times. The court has never paid attention. I do not know what to say. I do not know who to tell or who to speak to. Though I tell the court, it has never listened.”
Despite the claims that Mr. Chhean was a military police officer, military police officials on Thursday said they were unsure who the man was.
Phnom Penh military police commander Roth Sreang denied that Mr. Chhean was a military police officer from Phnom Penh, as claimed by Mr. Siyuth, the commune police chief.
“He’s not with us; we don’t have that guy’s name,” Major General Sreang said.
Svay Rieng provincial military police commander San Bun Than said he had heard about the arrests, but would not comment on Mr. Chhean.
“I heard the three were arrested this morning following the verdict from the Supreme Court,” he said, hanging up when asked if he knew Mr. Chhean.
National military police spokesman Kheng Tito said by telephone that he was unable to tell if Mr. Chhean was a military police officer at all.