Protesting villagers from two districts of Kampong Speu province have claimed police, military police and soldiers threatened them with assault rifles as they gathered outside the provincial court yesterday.
About 300 villagers involved in two separate land disputes had assembled to ask for the release of two detained villagers and to urge the court not to delay questioning another villager who had been summonsed.
Villagers said that at 11:25am, police, military police and soldiers carrying guns threatened to arrest anyone who tried to prevent court officials driving out of the office.
Villagers from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune had walked about a kilometre from the Marum pagoda to the provincial court about 8:30am to wait for Hak Haing, who had been summonsed to respond to accusations that he lied about owning land linked to a dispute involving the Phnom Penh Sugar Company.
Hak Haing was told his questioning had been delayed because the court was busy.
“They asked me why I bring a lot of people to court and how much money I pay the villagers per day, but I said I do not pay any money because we are victims together,” he said.
“The reason that the court has delayed questioning me is because it is afraid of a lot of people outside.”
Phal Vannak, a village representative, said his group also wanted 49-year-old mother Chum Srey Noun, who was detained on December 15, to be released and for the court to cease summonsing villagers.
Villagers had tried to protest outside the court, but the local authorities had brought in police, soldiers and military police to threaten them, he said.
Chum Srey Noun’s son, Yorn Sothear, 29, said his mother’s arrest was an injustice.
“Police did not have a warrant to arrest my mother; they just follow the powerful people,” he said.
Villagers from Kong Pisei district’s Preah Nipean commune asked the provincial authority to release a villager arrested in September. The groups said they would protest again today.
Men Siborn, military police chief of Kampong Speu province and Keo Pisey, chief of police, could not be reached for comment.