Sisters Charged for Setting Fire To Block Police During Eviction

Two sisters accused of setting a fire to block police officers who at­tempted to evict their family in Phnom Penh on Friday have been charged with aggravated obstruction of public officials and aggravated property damage, a municipal pros­­ecutor said on Monday.

The women, Soeng Sine, 34, and Soeng Samnang, 32, were ar­rested after a standoff with po­lice at their home in Daun Penh district on Friday morning, during which they allegedly threw a burning piece of a rubber tire into a gas tank, causing an explosion that badly burned a third sister, Soeng Ratana, 23.

The two were charged with us­ing dangerous means to damage property and violently blocking public officials—which together carry a maximum sentence of six years’ imprisonment—and sent to Prey Sar prison on Friday, according to Hor Lina, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The sisters are part of a family claiming to own a plot of land in Wat Phnom commune. They are in a dispute with a businessman, Sim Lorng, who says he owns the land and had merely hired the family to guard it. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 2007.

“The family are not the land­owners. They were guarding the land for the real owner; then they just built the house and tried to manage it as their own,” said deputy district governor Sok Penhvuth.

Speaking from her hospital bed on Monday, Ms. Ratana—the sister injured in the fire—denied this version of events, saying her family de­served a land title. She said that her mother, Yung Chanthou, had already spent a month in PJ Prison on charges of property destruction.

She also claimed that her sisters had nothing to do with the fire—and that she set herself alight to deter authorities from evicting her.

“On that day, I asked authorities, first, to release my mother from PJ, and told them to not im­plement the [eviction] verdict, or I would burn myself, but they re­fused, so I burned myself,” Ms. Ratana said.

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