FOUR village representatives in Kampot province who are involved in a land dispute with a Phnom Penh businesswoman have fled their homes after one member of the group was arrested and detained for six hours on Friday afternoon.
Meas Ang, one of the four, said yesterday that they had all left the province after Teuk Chhou district police descended on their homes in Dop Sralao village, located in Trapong Pring commune, on Friday. One of the representatives, Yav Run, was arrested at 11am and then transferred into the custody of provincial police, who questioned him until 5pm, Meas Ang said.
“We know that one of our representatives was arrested from his own home by district police forces, so we have fled our homes before they come to arrest the rest of us,” Meas Ang said.
We know that one of our representatives was arrested ... so we have fled our homes.
The businesswoman, Heav Lon, filed a complaint accusing the four village representatives of farming 58 hectares of disputed land illegally shortly after a June 16 altercation in which villagers accosted some of her employees and tried to stop them from clearing the land.
A group of 26 former Khmer Rouge families claim to have lived on the land since 1983 after receiving a concession from the government, and to have farmed it since 1996. In 2005, Heav Lon accused villagers who were farming the land of destroying her private property.
In a separate complaint, Dop Sralao village chief Soung Sorn accused two NGO workers of attempted murder and defamation following the altercation. Yav Run could not be reached yesterday, but Meas Ang said the village representative had inexplicably been questioned in connection with the attempted murder allegation.
“Police accused us of attempting to kill employees, but this is different from the complaint that was filed by Heav Lon,” Meas Ang said.
Heav Lon could not be reached yesterday.
Sam Ouk, the police chief in Teuk Chhou district, declined to comment on Friday’s arrest or the prospect of future arrests. “I just got the order from the provincial police, so ask the provincial police,” he said.
Provincial Police Chief Thlang Pherin said he had not arrested Yav Run but brought him to the police station to “clarify” outstanding questions related to the dispute. He also said he believed the disputed land had been sold to Heav Lon.
“They sold the land to Heav Lon and received money from her already, so why do they still make a problem? Those people always give police a headache,” he said.