A Battambang resident arrested in relation to a local land dispute should be released from prison in two months with a five-year suspended sentence, the Appeal Court ruled on Wednesday. The court upheld the one-year prison sentence handed to community representative Chim Keo, but said it had already been fulfilled by a year of pretrial detention. The decision is the latest chapter in a land dispute that has dragged on since the 1990s, when businessman Eang Oeun lodged a complaint against 38 families he said were illegally settled on a 124-hectare plot of farmland he owned in Battambang’s Bavel district. In 2002, authorities evicted the families, and since the eviction there have been five incidents in which former villagers have been arrested for trespassing. Chhim Chan Sathyanon, a lawyer from Legal Aid of Cambodia representing Chim Keo, said his client was detained for nearly one year from November 2006, charged with violating private property. Chim Keo was re-arrested on October 2 after the Appeal Court handed him a one-year sentence in absentia this September.
LAND DISPUTE:Battambang man to be freed from prison