A villager and an elderly commune councilor were charged Thursday with property damage for allegedly trying to tear down a fence on private property in Kampot province’s Kompong Bay district, though human rights groups say the suspects were merely negotiating for the fence’s removal.
Villager Mat Sam On, 36, and Pak Tiram, 62, an NRP commune councilor in Andoung Khmer commune, on Wednesday asked private workers to stop erecting a 150-meter-long metal fence that now blocks road access to at least eight families’ homes, including their own, said Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc.
“They did not damage anyone’s property…. They just requested them not to block the roadway,” she said.
However, the owner of the property, Min Thun, called provincial police and complained that the two suspects were damaging his property, according to Kampot province deputy police chief In Chiva, who said he visited the site and saw that the fence had been pushed out of its cement base.
“We arrested them because they damaged private property,” he said Sunday by telephone.
The Kampot Provincial Court on Thursday charged the two suspects for property damage and they now await trial in the provincial prison, In Chiva said.
Min Thun could not be reached at a telephone number provided by Adhoc.
Andoung Khmer commune chief Yoy Sithorng said Sunday Min Thun purchased the land in question more than 10 years ago, though only now did he finally plan to build a house there.
Pak Tiram’s husband confirmed that villagers began to protest Wednesday when workers arrived with fence-building materials, which led his wife to attempt to negotiate for the workers to stop building the fence.
“My wife just negotiated with them not to block the pathway. She did not do violence,” Sok Phov said.
Lawmaker and NRP Secretary-General You Hockry on Sunday said the party is investigating the dispute. He also called for an investigation from police and human rights groups.
“We are investigating for an intervention for her [Pak Tiram’s] release,” You Hockry said.