Judge claims UN backs him; UN expresses its 'concern'
FIVE representatives for more than 200
families who lost their farmland as part of a government-sanctioned
economic land concession were arrested Wednesday on charges of
trespassing and destroying the property's acacia tree crop last year.
In 2004 the government ceded 4,900 hectares of land in the Basith
district of Kampong Speu province to the Golden Land Co to develop
industry and plant acacia trees, said Roath Thavy, a monitor for the
Cambodian rights group Adhoc.
"This affected 228 hectares of land belonging to more than 200 families that is located within the concession," he said.
"The company used military forces to fire on the people, destroying
their farmland and burning houses in late 2007," Roath Thavy said. Two
of the five seized this week were jailed during the raid last year but
released in March 2008 after promising to stay away from the land.
court issued a summons for the five representatives to attend court
Wednesday but as soon as they arrived at the court they were arrested,"
Roath Thavy said. "The arrest violates judicial procedures as this is a
civil land dispute case, not a criminal case."
But Kampong Speu court judge On Samnang said that the court had the
right to detain the five because destroying acacia trees is an
"It is normal that the people are angry, but they are the ones at
fault for farming on land that has been given by the government to a
company for investment," he said.
The company used military forces to fire on the people ... and burned houses.
"I received a call from the United Nations Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) this morning approving the
detention of the people in order to educate them not to continually
trespass on the company's land," On Samnang added.
An OHCHR officer,
who asked not to be named, said that OHCHR has been in contact with the
investigating judge, but to raise concerns over the arrest and
detention of the five.
Roath Thavy said that the people have requested that Adhoc ask the
government to release the five and give them back their land.
"I have now compiled a report for the Phnom Penh Municipality and have requested intervention from the UN," he said.
Land disputes have become increasingly violent in Cambodia, with tens of thousands losing their land.