Police are investigating the alleged beating of a pregnant woman by soldiers in Battambang province during a violent land dispute that resulted in the woman suffering a miscarriage, police said Monday.
The dispute between troopers of RCAF’s Brigade 533 and residents of Bour village, Phnom Prik district erupted on July 20 when some 30 soldiers from the unit occupied a villager’s farmland and began to erect fencing to stake a claim to the site, human rights workers said.
Nhenh Sarun, the owner of the land, attempted to prevent the soldiers’ occupying his land but was badly beaten during the attempt, Yin Mengly, Adhoc monitor, said last week. Neighbors working in a nearby field came to Nhenh Sarun’s assistance but were also severely beaten by the soldiers. Ream Sarom was allegedly kicked in the stomach while trying to protect her husband, he said.
Sareth Viseth, Phnom Prik district deputy police chief, said that he had received reports that the troops paid the woman 30,000 Thai baht (approximately $750) in compensation, on condition that she not take the case to court.
“I will visit the village and check with the victims if they want to pursue a complaint with me. This case is not a simple case because a human life was killed,” he said.
In a statement to the Battambang Provincial Court, the provincial branch of the Human Rights Action Committee—an umbrella organization of rights groups in Cambodia—said that high-ranking officials from Brigade 533 negotiated the compensation payment to the woman.
The rights committee stated that the woman and her family were too frightened to lodge a complaint with police because of fears for their safety, adding that police were aware of the crime but have not filed a report.
“Our committee would like to strongly request the prosecutor to launch a just investigation into this case for the victim,” the statement said.
Major General Bun Seng, commander of military region 5, which includes Battambang, said he was unaware of the incident and deferred question to a deputy who was responsible for Brigade 533. The deputy could not be contacted by telephone.