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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Probe of shooting at Chi Kraeng hits snag

Probe of shooting at Chi Kraeng hits snag

Critics charge police with holding up investigation, while court officials say villagers are uncooperative.

RIGHTS activists and villagers in Siem Reap province’s Chi Kraeng commune say local officials are dragging their feet in investigating the shooting of four villagers during violent clashes with police in March, despite the court prosecutor claiming local officials have been summoned for questioning.

SRP lawmaker Ke Sovannaroth told the Post on Tuesday that six months after police opened fire on villagers, the provincial authorities had failed to arrest those responsible, despite arresting nine villagers in relation to the clashes.

“I keep urging court officials to conduct their investigation in a thorough and just way to bring the real perpetrators to be prosecuted as soon as possible, and not to put the blame on innocent people,” she said.

“I feel very upset that it has taken such a long time, almost six months, for the court to hunt for the real perpetrators.”

Villagers from Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes have been fighting over a 92-hectare swath of farmland in Chi Kraeng district since 2005. Siem Reap provincial Governor Sou Phirin ruled that the land belonged to villagers from Anlong Samnor, and in March offered the Chi Kraeng villagers a social land concession, an offer they rejected.

The dispute turned violent on March 22 when Chi Kraeng villagers attempted to harvest crops they had planted on the land, with officers opening fire on demonstrators who refused to disperse.

I FEEL VERY UPSET THAT IT HAS TAKEN SUCH A LONG TIME, ALMOST SIX MONTHS....

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said that the arrest of the police was taking much longer than the arrest of nine Chi Kraeng farmers involved in the dispute, who are still being held on robbery charges.
“It is extending the time for the victims, who have waited for justice for more than six months,” he said.

According to the law, he said, it should not have taken so long for the court to investigate because Siem Reap provincial prosecutor Ty Soveinthal was present during the clashes and had enough awareness of the event to conduct swift primary investigations.

Kao Soupha, the lawyer who brought the complaint against the police on behalf of the Chi Kraeng villagers in June, claims that since Ty Soveinthal is one of those named in the complaint, he is holding up the case to deflect responsibility for his role in the clashes.

When contacted on Tuesday, Ty Soveinthal said he had already summoned district governor Kao Sophoan and district deputy police Chief Srey Sam Ol to testify about the shooting, but that villagers had been hard to track down for questioning.

“It is very hard for us to summon some of the complainants to testify ... about their complaints against the police officials,” he said, adding that several complainants had failed to appear at court. “They must provide credible evidence and point out the shooter. If they [provide] improper testimony, they will face charges of falsifying testimony.”

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