Villagers Arrested for Growing Bananas on State Land

Three villagers were arrested in Kompong Thom on Friday for growing banana trees on state land in Santuk district, officials and a rights group said.

Soth Mary, head of the local division of the Forestry Administration, said the three—who he refused to name—had been arrested on suspicion of occupying state land. 

“Now they are being held at the Kompong Thma commune Forestry Administration office as our officials are preparing documents for sending to court,” Mr. Mary said, declining to comment further. Chhuon Rom, provincial monitor for rights group Licadho, said the three arrested were Kheang Sokleang, 26, Kheang Soklab, 23, and her husband, Chan Buntheoun, 37.

They were clearing the land for Chan Vanna, the father of the siblings, Mr. Rom said. “Mr. Vanna said his family had cleared the land to cultivate banana trees but did not know it’s state forest land,” he said.

“Authorities should educate them rather than arrest them.”

The trio work for a Vietnamese rubber company called Tan Bien and were cultivating bananas in order to supplement their low wage, he added, pledging to conduct an investigation of his own.

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