Around 50 villagers protested outside Kompong Cham Provincial Court on Friday demanding the release of two men who had acted as their representatives in a dispute over land with the Boeng Ket Rubber Plantation, rights workers said.
Tann Heng, 45, and Hor Nguon Leng, 63, were detained in prison Thursday evening on a warrant issued by the provincial court, which has accused the two men of obstructing the plantation’s bulldozers from clearing land claimed by 173 families in the province’s Stung Trang district.
The two men had just returned to Kompong Cham province after attending an audience with retired King Norodom Sihanouk in Phnom Penh to discuss abuses at the province’s rubber plantations.
“We are not happy with the arrests and intimidation,” said Heng Kimleng, 47, the daughter of Hor Nguon Leng. “We demand that they are released and our ownership of the land is recognized,” she said. “We only cry for justice and to get our land back,” she added.
“If they don’t release them, we will stay here forever.”
SRP lawmaker Moa Munyvann accompanied the protesting villagers.
Neang Sovat, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that the court’s director, Plang Chlam, had agreed to release the two men on Friday evening.
However, by Friday evening the court had not issued an order to release the two men.
“There was a compromise,” said deputy district police chief, Hang Van Chorn said.
“The court will release them but I don’t know on what day,” he said.
Kim Veasna, Cambodian Defenders Project lawyer, said the court had until Monday to decide whether they would detain the two men or release them on bail.
Neang Sovat added that the villagers have laid claim to 431 hectares of land claimed by the rubber plantation, and had already planted potato and cashew crops when the bulldozers rolled in.
Sim Vanna, director general of the plantation, could not be reached for comment.