Police Confirm Arrest of Villagers in Dispute With Pailin Governor

Police officials confirmed Tuesday that the villagers involved in a land dispute with a company allegedly owned by Pailin Governor Y Chhien were arrested late Monday and said that one more villager was detained Tuesday.

Sath Sin, deputy police chief of Pailin province’s Sala Krao district, said that Pich Sothea, 47, Orm Sam Ath, 44, and Orm Sam Ol, 31, had been arrested for failing to honor a court summons dated March 25 and signed by Pailin provincial prosecutor Chum Sensathea.

“We arrested the three people because they didn’t follow a court summons after we told them twice to come and stand at court for questioning,” Mr. Sin said.

Chea Chandin, deputy police chief of Pailin, said that Tuot Mak, 48, was also arrested at 5 p.m. Tuesday while protesting for the release of the villagers, who were being held at the provincial police offices.

He had earlier confirmed the three original arrestees were being detained at his offices.

“We are now questioning the three people and we are scheduled to send them to court tomorrow to take action according to the law,” Mr. Chandin said.

Police declined to say what laws the three had broken.

“We will find…and arrest any more people if we find they are involved with the five people” named in the court summons, Mr. Chandin added.

Last month, Sala Krao deputy commune chief Vor Roum said Mr. Chhien had ordered him to clear the families from the land by March 15.

The families are mostly former Khmer Rouge fighters and claim to have occupied land with authorization since as early as 1999.

Mr. Chhien, the former bodyguard chief for Pol Pot, described the disputed plot of land as “my land” last month before correcting himself to say it was partly state-owned and partly owned by a company.

Mr. Chhien hung up on a reporter when contacted Tuesday.

Nheuk Nhan, 50, the husband of Ms. Sam Ath, said he was among the 50 people who had protested outside the police station Tuesday.

“This is an injustice for my wife and the others, because we came to stay on the land in 2000, but Mr. Chhien has confiscated the land for his own property and now arrested three people and jailed them,” he said.

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