POLICE were deployed in Kampong Speu province’s Thpong district yesterday to prevent villagers from accompanying three community representatives to Phnom Penh, where they are to be questioned today over a complaint related to a dispute with a sugar company, one of the representatives said.
You Tho, Phal Vannak and Ieng Chiva have been summoned to appear at the Ministry of Interior by In Bora, director of the Interior Ministry’s Penal Police Department, prompting concerns that they could be arrested.
The three men hail from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune. Since February, they have been advocating on behalf of more than 2,000 families affected by a 9,000-hectare land concession awarded to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.
“I told the villagers that they do not have to come support me. If the ministry wants to arrest me, they can arrest me,” You Tho said after arriving in Phnom Penh yesterday.
In March, he and fellow representative Khem Vuthy were held for about one week over their alleged involvement in the torching of a makeshift shelter owned by the company.
You Tho said he doubted that many villagers would make it to Phnom Penh because of the police presence.
“I could not count how many police I saw, but I noticed them standing along the road, from the village until we reached the district town,” he said, and added that some checkpoints were manned by as many as 10 officers.
The questioning scheduled for today stems from allegations that the three men illegally detained Phnom Penh Sugar representative Chheang Kimsruon during a demonstration last month, when about 300 Omlaing villagers blocked a section of National Road 52 in Kampong Speu.
Hab Dam, Omlaing commune chief, confirmed that district authorities had deployed police yesterday to prevent villagers from travelling to Phnom Penh.