The Appeal Court has ordered the Siem Reap Provincial Court to grant bail to two villager representatives and a journalist jailed since December as the result of a land dispute, according to officials.
About 300 villagers protested and burned tires for almost three weeks outside the provincial court calling for the men’s release from pretrial detention, claiming that they were wrongly jailed.
Provincial Governor Sou Phirin said Sunday that the trio were freed Friday evening and that he will meet this morning with the village representatives, lawyers, judges, NGOs and journalists in an effort to find a compromise between the opposing parties.
“I will go [to the disputed area] tomorrow to figure out the problem and end with a solution,” Sou Phirin said. “We will sit down and discuss. It is not the court, but just finding the truth.”
Since Jan 14, residents have protested outside the court for the men’s release, occasionally burning car tires, but ended their demonstration Friday following the men’s release, said Mao Yin, provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc.
Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Nguon San said a decision from the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh granted the release.
“They were released on bail following the Appeal Court’s decision, but they still are under the eyes of the authorities and they have to check in at the district police office once every two weeks,” he said.
Sin Leap and Chan Leap, representatives of more than 200 families involved in a land dispute over 475 hectares of land in Chi Kreng district’s Anlong Samnor commune, were arrested Dec 26 along with journalist Sin Samley for allegedly forging documents involved with the dispute.
The villagers accuse authorities, including Chi Kreng District Gov-ernor Kap Sophoan, of plotting to secretly sell land villagers have been farming for over two decades.
Khem Savoeun, a representative of the protesters, said villagers will attend the meeting with the governor but doubts any solution will be reached today.
“If there is no solution, we will go to protest in front of Samdech [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s house,” he said.