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People gather outside a Mondulkiri provincial police station yesterday as a woman is charged for squatting on ELC property. Adhoc
People gather outside a Mondulkiri provincial police station yesterday as a woman is charged for squatting on ELC property. Adhoc

Woman accused of leading squatters jailed without trial

Mondulkiri Provincial Court yesterday sent a woman to serve three months in pre-trial detention, according to court spokesman Meas Bros, even though the authorities said they had no intention of ever prosecuting her.

Rith Vanny was arrested on Monday as the alleged ringleader of 231 squatters on an economic land concession (ELC) held by rubber consortium Pacific Pearl Joint Stock Company in Koh Nhek district.

“She induced or persuaded others to grab the land,” court spokesman Bros said, who added that she would be released in three months without facing prosecution.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun was incredulous yesterday that a provincial court could have handed someone what was effectively a prison sentence without a trial.

“If there’s no trial, that means no pre-trial detention,” Sam Oeun said.

“She should find a lawyer. I do not believe that. I think maybe the court spokesman [misspoke].”

Meanwhile, 40 people gathered outside the provincial police headquarters and court calling for Vanny’s immediate release.

“It is wrong to detain her, it’s so unfair to her and all the people,” Van Saruon, 44, said, adding that the squatters had lived on the land prior to the ELC being granted. “We wished to return to the land but we failed to do so.”

Local authorities speaking to the Post on Tuesday insisted the Vanny had been allowed to operate a small store on company land on the condition she would eventually vacate, only to renege on that pledge.

Provincial Adhoc coordinator Sok Rotha called for all but one month of Vanny’s intended jail time to be suspended. “She did not do it for personal gain, but for poor people,” he said.

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