THE rights group Adhoc plans to send a letter to Kratie provincial court today asking for the release on bail of 17 Cham Muslim residents of Snuol district who were charged Tuesday with illegal logging inside a protected forest area, provincial coordinator Thim Narin said Thursday.
She said the group has agreed to provide free legal representation in the pending trial.
The 17 villagers were arrested on Monday and charged the following day.
“We will send a letter on Friday asking for those people to be released on bail, and our office in Phnom Penh will provide them with two lawyers,” Thim Narin said.
Provincial prosecutor Chab Suoreasmey said Thursday that all 17 had engaged in “anarchy” by logging in the protected area.
However, Khuot Kai, 46, said his son was among the 17 arrested villagers, and that all of them had moved to Kratie from their native Kampong Cham because they wanted farmland of their own.
In Kratie, he said, they had been hired by the Vietnamese to work on farms.
“The Vietnamese hired us to work on farms for them, but we have decided to move” to Kratie, he said. “Now we want the court to release our villagers because it is an injustice for them.”