THREE villagers from Banteay Meanchey province’s Malai district were arrested on Friday by Battambang police on suspicion of the attempted murder and rape of a businessman, local residents and rights group Adhoc said yesterday.
Villagers from seven communities in Banteay Meanchey’s Takong commune sent a letter to Adhoc on Monday asking for the release of community representatives Sin Choeun, 54, Nol Orn, 54, and Choeun Chet, 24.
The letter followed their arrest by Battambang’s Sampov Loun district police after they had been summoned for questioning at the Takong commune police department, in Banteay Meanchey’s Malai district, over a land dispute.
Van Soeun, the 52-year-old deputy village chief of O’Svay village in Banteay Meanchey’s Takong commune, said he had thumb-printed a letter petitioning for their release.
“Police came to arrest them without a court arrest warrant, but I can use my position as deputy village chief to guarantee that they are not guilty,” he said.
Van Soeun said the three villagers, allegedly armed with knives, had an argument with the businessman. He could not recall the date of the incident.
Local residents have accused the businessman of burning down their homes and destroying their rice crops in order to buy their land for a castor-oil plantation.
“They are violating the three accused villagers. They just had a normal argument, but the court accused them of murder and rape,” Van Soeun said.
Oeu Sam On, a village representative who sent the letter to Ahoc, said yesterday the three villagers had been detained in Battambang provincial prison.
He said residents of the seven villages would not be petitioning for the suspects’ release if they did not believe those arrested were innocent.
Yin Mengly, Battambang provincial co-ordinator for Adhoc, said he had received the villagers’ intervention letter and confirmed the case was related to allegations of attempted murder and rape following a land dispute.
Battambang deputy prosecutor Uy Saphear said yesterday he would check up on the case with the provincial prosecutor for Banteay Meanchey, before declining to comment further.
Keang Sothy, the deputy police chief of Battambang’s Sampov Loun district, who allegedly arrested the three suspects, said yesterday he did not know about the case.
Sampov Loun district police chief So Phy could not be reached for comment.