Three villagers were released from jail on Friday, bringing to five the number of prisoners released since Prime Minister Hun Sen’s March 15 pledge to free people detained over land disputes, officials said Sunday.
Sao Chan Horm, investigator for rights NGO Licadho, said jailed Banteay Meanchey villagers Bao Yorn and Lem Mao were both released Friday. This was confirmed by Yet Khemara, Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court deputy chief prosecutor.
Kratie Provincial Court Judge Kong Sokhom said a teenaged prisoner was released Friday, but that his three co-defendants remain in jail because the court director ordered them held pending a hearing scheduled for Friday, during which forestry officials will testify.
Two Ratanakkiri province men were released on the day that Hun Sen made the commitment at a meeting of the National Authority for Solving Land Disputes and NGO representatives.
Some NGOs have been cataloguing land arrest cases to be sent to the Justice Ministry for action, but the number of people who may be eligible for release has not yet been determined.
Licadho’s preliminary list comprised 38 cases in 13 provinces and municipalities; a few of the prisoners listed were actually released prior to Hun Sen’s order. Rights group Adhoc added seven cases to that list’s geographical area.
No estimates for the other 11 provinces and municipalities were available on Sunday.
Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said on Thursday that he had contacted local authorities regarding several land protest detentions.
“I sent [documents] to provincial courts and ordered them to report back,” he said. “They can release prisoners on bail if their cases are purely land disputes.”
But not all prisoners will be released: Detainees accused of additional crimes, such as committing violent acts or setting fires, will take longer to process, he added.