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Police block villagers on quest to free pair

More than 100 villagers in Battambang province’s Bavel district were blocked by nearly two dozen police and military police yesterday as they tried to march to provincial hall to protest against the arrest of two residents.

Nov Saray, 37, said he and his fellow villagers were seeking the release of 60-year-old Ly Sophea and his wife, 58-year-old Chin Saloeun, who were arrested on Monday for stealing property.

The charges stem from an incident in early December when authorities measuring land for distribution in Ampil Pram Doeum and Prey Khpos communes clashed with villagers claiming ownership.

Yesterday’s march was thwarted by authorities after about six kilometres, Nov Saray said.

“Around 20 authority forces blocked us by threatening to use guns to shoot if we continued travelling,” he said, adding that, although there was a scuffle, no one was injured.

“We delayed going to provincial hall for a period to prevent getting wounded,” he said.

A few hours after the clash, authorities released Chin Saloeun, but continued to detain her husband.

Speaking after her release, Chin Saloeun said the charges against her were “unjust” because many villagers, not just her and her husband, had taken part in the December clash.

Bavel district governor Tim Nareth defended the arrests, claiming that the detainees had stolen guns, money and a camera from local authorities during the dispute in December.

Battambang provincial court judge Saoeun Kosal Mony and Ampil Pram Doeum commune police chief Ul Chich declined to comment yesterday.

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