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Police destroy cassava crops in Svay Rieng

POLICE burned 8 hectares of newly planted cassava on disputed land in Svay Rieng province on Saturday, one day after the provincial court issued 10 new arrest warrants in the case, villagers said.

Officials and police in the Romeas Hek district, where farmers are engaged a dispute with the Peam Chaing Rubber Company, denied any knowledge of the burning, and the provincial court declined to comment on whether arrest warrants had been issued in the case.

But district police chief Chum Ry said that at least 10 warrants had been issued by the court on Friday for illegal detention and destruction of property belonging to police and the company.

About 400 families in Romeas Hek district have accused the company, which in 2007 was awarded a concession totalling nearly 4,000 hectares, of threatening to impinge on their farmland. On May 2, Yea Yeoung was arrested after police accused him of destroying police property and “briefly kidnapping” a representative of the company during a protest. Police said last Thursday that they had tried and failed to arrest four other alleged “ringleaders”.

Deputy district governor Hem Sokun said he had no authority to intervene in the case of Yea Yeoung because his arrest had been ordered by the court.

Prosecutor Keo Sothea declined to comment on any cases stemming from the land dispute, saying, “It’s the court’s secret. I cannot say”.

Pao Chhat, who has participated in protests related to the land dispute, said affected farmers and their families planned to gather in front of the provincial hall at some point this week.

“If the provincial authorities do not find a resolution for us, we will go together to Phnom Penh because only Prime Minister Hun Sen can help us now,” he said.

An Marady, who has previously identified himself as the chairman of the Peam Chaing Rubber Company, on Sunday told a reporter that he was “not the owner of this rubber company” before hanging up his phone.

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