Two women are being held at Kompong Cham provincial prison since being charged in provincial court for stealing $0.15 worth of rubber resin Saturday, officials said.
Hean Mab, 35, and Um Ne, 49, were arrested Friday at a plantation in Ponhea Krek district’s Krek commune for stealing 2 kg of resin, said Seng Sokim, deputy provincial police chief.
“They are being detained at the provincial prison awaiting trial because this is not the first time they stole,” he said.
The pair was previously arrested for stealing, made to thumbprint documents agreeing to stop, and then released, he said.
Twenty suspected rubber thieves have been arrested since May in the district, said Sim Kheang, an investigator for local rights group Adhoc in the province. They are normally held for four to six weeks in pre-trial detention before the court gives them five years of probation and releases them, he said.
Villagers are forced to steal by poverty and hunger, he added.
Mu Sochua, former minister of Women’s Affairs and now a member of the Sam Rainsy Party, said it was unacceptable to jail the two rubber thieves when high-ranking officials go unpunished for land-grabbing, corruption and other assorted crimes.
“Some high-ranking officials have committed many serious crimes but they are never detained in prison,” she said, adding that the thieves should only be re-educated and then released.
But not all rubber thieves in Ponhea Krek get away with a short jail sentence.
A 26-year-old man was gunned down at a plantation in the district Oct 2 while allegedly stealing resin.
Police are currently hunting for Khim Mean, a Veal Mlou commune police officer and a guard at the plantation whom they suspect of killing Nhor Nhe.
Provincial Governor Hun Neng said Monday that the shooting is not being ignored. “I will not forgive him. We are hunting for him so he can be punished,” he said.