While residents of Kampong Chhnang province’s Lorpeang village continue to push for community representatives to be released from jail, 28 workers from the politically connected KDC International company petitioned for them to be kept under lock and key and to be prosecuted.
Sin Khim, a KDC construction worker who said he received a head injury in a clash with the villagers in early July, said those who were arrested demonstrating against the firm should not be released, adding that authorities should arrest five more suspects.
“When we were building fences on the company’s land, Snguon Nhoeun [a villager arrested in a peaceful Phnom Penh march on August 12] and others used catapults, machetes and swords to shoot and slash at us, and they also burnt down our five tents, so they should not be released,” Khim said, speaking at the end of a two-day petition drive on the dispute in Phnom Penh.
“If they are released, that means our country has no laws or regulations.”
Khim said that he and the five other injured workers have filed a lawsuit against those in jail for 40 million riel ($9,864).
The workers filed their petitions on Wednesday and yesterday at the Ministry of Justice, the prime minister’s cabinet, the National Assembly, and the Senate, and various local and international NGOs and Radio Free Asia accepted it.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor with rights group Licadho, welcomed the petition, saying it would be considered, but cautioned that petitions should not be filed under the inducement of rich and powerful people. He added that “the government and the authorities involved have to resolve the land dispute in Lorpeang”.
KDC is owned by Chea Kheng, wife of Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem.
It’s workers launched their petition while about 60 villagers from Lorpeang and other areas are in Phnom Penh to file their own petition asking for the release of five villagers and for their charges to be dismissed, along with the prompt resolution of the land dispute, which has festered for years.