BANTEAY Meanchey provincial authorities rejected a petition requesting the release of four villagers imprisoned in Oddar Meanchey province in connection with a recent land dispute on Tuesday, officials and villagers said.
On Tuesday, Vath Paranin, Banteay Meanchey’s secretary general, dismissed the request, made by a group of about 100 families from Bos village in Kaun Kriel district, which was forcibly cleared in October to make way for a sugar plantation.
The petition also requested local authorities halt the impending arrest of another four villagers wanted in connection with the clashes.
“I didn’t see the letter yet, but the authorities will still seek to arrest the other villagers who are now on the run,” he said, adding that he does not have the right to release the four people who are in jail.
Fear of further arrests
The four detained villagers, including a pregnant woman, were arrested during a land dispute with the Angkor Sugar Company, owned by Ly Yongphat, a senator with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
Chheng Sophors, provincial coordinator of human rights group Licahdo, said that he received the petition from the villagers and sent it to authorities on Monday.
“They did not send the request letter directly to the provincial official because they were afraid that the authorities would arrest them; that’s why they asked us to send their letter to the provincial official,” he said.
Since the eviction, many of the families have since gone into hiding from authorities, including village representative Huy Chhuy.
“I have stayed far from my house and family for a few months now because I am the one that the Oddar Meanchey authorities are following in order to arrest me,” he said by phone, adding that he does not want his former land anymore.