Three human rights organization said Tuesday that death of a Siem Reap province man involved in a bitter land dispute with a local pagoda was accidental, although relatives and neighbors remained unconvinced.
Mao Bunlaing, 46, bled to death alone in his outhouse on Sunday evening from deep lacerations to his legs and back. His son and neighbors said they suspected foul play; the victim had been scheduled to attend provincial court on Monday in relation to an ongoing dispute over land with Wat Reachbo, which is trying to evict 56 families from an eight-hectare plot of land.
“We did a thorough investigation into this death…. He died after stepping on his toilet and breaking it,” said Mao Yin, chief of Adhoc’s Siem Reap office, adding that rights groups Licadho and Cambodian Center for Human Rights concurred. Sala Kamroeuk commune police Chief Yin Sopheach said the villagers had jumped, without a shred of evidence, to the wrong conclusion that Mao Bunlaing was murdered.
“At the scene where he died, there was no proof that he was killed,” Yin Sopheach said.
Mao Bunlaing’s wife and son were still not convinced on Tuesday.
“I am poor and illiterate so I must accept their conclusion. But in my mind my husband was murdered,” said Preum Ley, 41.
The man’s son, Mao Veasna, 21, said that he believed the attacker was hiding in the outhouse in wait for his father.
Yin Sopheach and the rights workers said that scenario was impossible as the man was found dead inside the outhouse, which was locked from the inside.
One villager said that the death of Mao Bunlaing, whether an accident or not, had frightened her into wanting to leave the disputed land.
Sok Hay, a lawyer for Reachbo pagoda, said that the death of Mao Bunlaing was not related to the land dispute, adding he was unaware of what plans the monks had for the land.
So Socheat, 23, who is refusing to move from the land and is currently in Phnom Penh to lobby the National Land Dispute Authority, said that she had received information that the land is being cleared for a hotel or apartments. Tep Vong, supreme patriarch of the Mohanikay sect, wrote in letters this month that the land is needed for a school and monastery housing.