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Protesters force court closure

Siem Reap courthouse hit by demonstrations.

PROTESTERS from Chi Kraeng village in Siem Reap province forced the provincial courthouse to close Thursday in demonstrations calling for the release of three villagers arrested over a bitter land dispute in November.

Khem Savoeun, a representative of the protesters, said employees inside the courthouse were forced to lock the doors, halting proceedings, and preventing officials from entering and leaving.

"The deputy governor and the courthouse in Phnom Penh want the prisoners to go free," he said, declining to elaborate further.

The threat resulted in the deputy governor promising an informal meeting, Khem Savouen added, and that the prisoners would be released "in the near future".

Protesters also tried to burn down the courthouse, he said, but had been unsuccessful. Police and fire vehicles arrived at the scene but witnesses among protestors and police said there had been no injuries or arrests.

Dispute continues

About 100 villagers have been camped outside Siem Reap's provincial courthouse for over a week, protesting the imprisonment of two Chi Kraeng farmers and a journalist from local newspaper Khmer Society. The trio were jailed after allegedly accusing the district governor of interfering in a land dispute between farmers from Chi Kraeng and Anlung Samnor communes.

The arrests prompted protesters to burn tires outside the Siem Reap courthouse and post pig heads to members of staff there.

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