A man arrested by Preah Vihear provincial officials on Thursday for protesting against his pending eviction was released Friday after more than 150 villagers demonstrated outside the provincial department of environment demanding he be freed, according to villagers.
Khen Tha, part of a community being forced off their land in Rovieng district’s Romany commune, was arrested by local environment officials while protesting against the promised eviction of about 80 families at the hands of timber magnate Try Pheap.
Villagers also reported that police shot into the air with AK-47 rifles to disperse the protesters.
At 3 p.m. Friday, Mr. Tha was released, according to community representative Huon Kino. “We asked the environment officials to release Khin Tha, and please, do not fire your guns in the air again to threaten the villagers,” Mr. Kino said.
The villagers have begun building homes on a 15-hectare swath of land inside a 2,315-hectare plot that the Try Pheap Company claims ownership of.
Khoy Khunchanrath, director of the provincial environment department, said this dispute was not a priority.
“I am too busy to solve this problem for villagers,” he said.