Two women were arrested on Friday for allegedly breaching a court order related to an ongoing dispute over 1,000 hectares of land they live on along with 165 other families in Kompong Speu province’s Phnom Sruoch district.
Community leaders You Ran, 51 and Ith Rom, 55, were summoned to the provincial court for questioning on Friday as the result of a complaint filed in 2014 by Chea Kum, who also claims ownership of the land in Taing Samraong commune, according to Ung Somith, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho.
After Ms. Ran and Ms. Rom were questioned, judge Toch Putheara ordered their arrest and sent them to pretrial detention at the provincial prison, he said. Judge Putheara could not be reached.
Provincial penal police chief Sam Sak confirmed he had received and executed an arrest warrant issued by the court and said the two women had violated a court order because they had previously been summoned for questioning in the same case but failed to appear.
“The court summoned them a few months ago but they never came,” he said.
Mr. Somith, however, said the women had not previously been summoned to appear before the court and said the families had been living on the land since 1980.
“The court should go visit the land,” he said. “They can’t charge and detain them based on a land title held by another party if they haven’t tried to learn from the villagers how long they have been using the land.”
District governor Pich Chantha said the court was correct in ordering the arrest of the women because they had refused to have their land measured in 2013 as part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s land titling scheme.
“They have no land,” he claimed. “When the students went to measure the land, why did they refuse it? How can they now say it’s their land?”