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Village chief’s release demanded by crowd

A recently elected village chief in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district, who was forced into another election by his rival, was arrested on Wednesday during the second poll.

About 100 locals protested yesterday outside the provincial hall, calling for the release of Chhuon Khorn, the chief of Boeung Romlech village, who has been accused of clearing state forests.

Pen Thol, a local teacher who joined yesterday’s demonstration, said Khorn was well-respected in the community and elected as village chief on January 21.

But the former village chief who lost the election to him called for a second round of voting on Wednesday.

Khorn was arrested before the results of that poll were declared.

Thol added that demonstrators went home yesterday after the provincial governor said he would intervene to try and facilitate Khorn’s release.

Court officials could not be reached for comment.

“Chhuon Khorn was arrested because he cleared state forests and sold [the land] to people at 5 hectares for $250 to $500,” Veal Veng district police chief Theang Leng said.

“Before the arrests, we had already advised and educated him two times [about this], but he continued to do it. So we asked the court for an arrest warrant to bring him to justice.”

But Phuong Sothea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the case was suspicious. He also alleged that police had not actually shown Khorn an arrest warrant.

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