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Kampot villagers to see lawyer

TWO village representatives in Kampot province who fled their homes late last week fearing arrest in connection with a land dispute have agreed to meet with a lawyer today in the hope that they will be able to return.

Four representatives left on Friday after Teuk Chhou district police descended on their homes in Dop Sralao village, located in Trapong Pring commune, and arrested representative Yav Run, who was transferred to provincial police and questioned for six hours.

The four men represent 26 former Khmer Rouge families who claim to have lived on 58 hectares of disputed land since 1983. In 2005, Phnom Penh businesswoman Heav Lon accused villagers who were farming the land of destroying her private property.

Heav Lon filed a criminal complaint against the four representatives after a June 16 altercation in which villagers accosted some of her employees and tried to stop them from clearing the land.

Lawyer Sao Kanha said yesterday that she would meet with representatives Cheam Sorn and Phan Saveth, though she declined to say whether they would agree to meet for questioning with provincial police.

“We cannot give any answers now because I have not learned the real reason why police are hunting for them,” she said. “I will meet and ask them to find out the truth first.”

Provincial police chief Phlang Pherin denied having arrested Yav Run, saying he had only been called in for questioning. He said, though, that the families had no claim to the land because they had already sold it to Heav Lon. “We do not understand why they still cause trouble over that land,” he said.

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