AROUND 300 villagers in Kandal province gathered yesterday at the provincial court to protest the arrest of a representative involved in a land row with a local development company.
Officials say the Heng Development Company purchased 1,044 hectares of land in Kandal Stung district in 1996. But representatives of some 2,676 families say they have been farming the land since 1986 and thus are entitled to ownership.
Eang Yan, one of the representatives, said yesterday that military police arrested 45-year-old Vorn Vun while he was eating lunch on Saturday. He said he believed the officers had also intended to arrest himself and fellow representative Chea Hy, but that they had fled their homes and gone into hiding.
“The company tried to arrest three representatives, including me, but they could only arrest one because the two of us knew beforehand, so we ran away before the military police could come to our home,” Eang Yan said.
He said he believed that the company had filed a complaint accusing the three men of destroying company property during a protest last year.
But Sieng Chanheng, the director of the company, said yesterday that she had no knowledge of the arrest.
Phal Rotha, deputy chief of the military police in Kandal Stung, said he didn’t know about the arrest either, and suggested that it was carried out by “another authority”. Provincial court prosecutor Vong Bun Visoth said that he had been out of the office over the weekend and couldn’t comment on the case.
Men Makara, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, noted that Vorn Vun, Eang Yan and Chea Hy had been summoned to appear at the court on August 4 but had been unable to find a lawyer. He said the court had not responded to a request by the three men for their questioning to be rescheduled, and criticised the court for issuing arrest warrants instead.