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Villagers in court over bulldozer ‘detention’

At least eight villagers in Preah Vihear’s Tbeng Meanchey district have been ordered to appear in court for questioning in relation to allegations that they illegally detained two bulldozer operators working for Chinese concessionaires Lan Feng and Rui Feng.

Six of the accused were present at the court yesterday, and two more are scheduled to appear today. On December 29, about 100 villagers engaged in a land dispute with the Chinese sister companies intercepted two bulldozers allegedly clearing farmland and resin trees in Brame commune. After about 24 hours, the two men were released and the machinery was turned over to authorities.

Khan Roeung, a representative of the ethnic Kuoy community in Brame, said that villagers’ actions had not been inappropriate.

“We did not detain them; we only prevented them from clearing our land and delivered the two bulldozers to Brame commune office,” he said.

However, Ung Tingkong, a translator for Lan Feng and Rui Feng, said that the community members had threatened the two drivers with weapons.

“The two drivers were so scared since the indigenous [community] used knives and axes to threaten them,” he said.

Deputy provincial prosecutor Long Sitha said that the point of the questioning was to determine who made the threats. But Lut Sang, a land project coordinator with NGO Ponlok Khmer, said he witnessed the incident and saw no one threatening the bulldozer operators.

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