By Kuch Naren
The Cambodia Daily
Four of 10 Tampuon ethnic minority villagers involved in a land dispute with the company DM Group appeared at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court today over accusations that they had broken the conditions of their bail, court officials and villagers said.
Sven Vev, Yang Thang, Nit Than and Shay Khamnear were detained on charges of trespassing and property destruction for removing rubber trees planted by DM Group on the 260 hectares of disputed land in Lumphat district’s Batang commune. The four men have already spent half a year in provisional detention and were conditionally released in July 2009.
Chan Nimol, court clerk for Judge Thor Saran, said that the four men were questioned yesterday along with Batang commune chief Kith Chem, who accused the men of violating their bail conditions.
“Basically, these four men have abused the bail conditions twice already which is why they need to sign a contract to stop illegal activities,” she said.
Mr Vev, one of the four villagers, said that they were questioned for five hours and warned by Judge Saran and Mr Chem to stop collecting complaints against DM group.
“Both the judge and the commune chief warned that they would take legal measures to place us in prison which is why we were frightened and forced to agree with them,” Mr Vev said.
Mr Chem confirmed that he had filed a complaint with the court alleging that the four men had violated the terms of their bail.
“The four never appeared at the commune office or commune police station once a week, which is one of the bail conditions,” he said.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that yesterday’s questioning by the court was intended to discourage villagers from complaining over land disputes.
“We are so sorry that the court and local authority don’t pay attention to the rights of indigenous villagers,” Mr Bonnar said.
“Villagers who protect the forests…are being blamed for their efforts.”