Villager Detained After Poipet Eviction Released

A villager detained four days af­ter he was arrested during last week’s bloody eviction of villagers in Poipet was released on bail Fri­day after being charged with an un­­disclosed crime.

Ieng Saroeun, 41, was one of more than 20 villagers arrested on March 21 after police and military police officers armed with assault ri­fles stormed Kbal Spean village in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poi­pet commune, killing five villa­gers.

“I don’t know why they released me and I also don’t know why they arrested me,” Ieng Saroeun said Sunday. “They said to me that I exploited human rights, but I don’t understand.”

“I was beaten by three inmates, and my whole body still hurts,” he said. “I still fear being arrested again.”

When contacted Sunday, Heng Chantha and Deputy Governor Sok Sareth refused to comment, say­ing they were in meetings.

Villagers concluded a seven-day funeral ceremony for the dead on Sunday at the sites where they died, village representative Chey Sophat said.

Also on Sunday, Poipet commune Chief Hay Nam Heng al­leg­ed that village chief Tin On had plan­ned to turn the disputed Kbal Spean land over to “powerful people” who also own the surrounding land.

He claimed there are plans for con­struction of a new casino, but he would not name who he be­lieved to be behind the deal.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay echoed Hay Nam Heng’s al­lega­tions Sunday and also questioned the independence of the government committee inves­ti­gating the shooting. The committee includes prov­­incial governors and the chiefs of the province’s military po­lice and police forces—both of whose units took part in the bloody eviction.

“The committee formed to deal with the problem involves members involved in the crime,” he said. “We cannot accept this.”

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