Trial Concludes in Chi Kreng Land Clash of ’09

Trial concluded yesterday at Siem Reap Provincial Court in the case of nine men charged with attempted murder for their alleged roles in a 2009 clash with police over disputed land in Chi Kreng district.

Deputy prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith said the hearing ended after the questioning of five witnesses yesterday morning over the role the nine charged men played in the incident. He said the court would announce a verdict on Aug 20.

The land dispute turned violent in March 2009, when police reportedly opened fire on a group of farmers who claimed that authorities had illegally plotted to sell off 475 hectares of their farmland. The shooting injured four local farmers.

Fellow villagers and rights group Adhoc insist the men were innocent. Local Adhoc monitor Ouch Leng yesterday urged the court to drop ithe charges against them and to find those responsible for injuring the four farmers.

“If the court hands down prison sentences for the villagers it will be unjust for them because they are the victims,” Mr Leng said.

More than 200 villagers gathered at a local shrine on Sunday to pray for the men’s release, according to Licadho senior investigator Chheng Sophors, and continued their vigil yesterday in front of the provincial courthouse in Siem Reap City.

“The villagers lit incense sticks to implore the sacred spirits to help appease the court and set their relatives free,” he said.

Touk Ponloek, a nephew of one of the charged men, Chheng Savoeun, insisted his uncle and the others were all innocent.

“Please, court, set the villagers free because they are innocent victims,” he pleaded.

The court delayed the trial for the second time last Monday because the presiding judge, Chhay Kong, fell ill. The court had also postponed the trial on July 27. Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana wrote to the court in June urging officials to speed up their investigation of the case.

 

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