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Charges follow violent land row

Charges follow violent land row

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A villager from Krayman commune, which has been cordoned off by police since a long-running land dispute erupted into violence last week, dries cassava outside her home.

THREE people have been charged with destruction of private property following an anti-eviction uprising in Kampong Thom’s Santuk district that left two people hospitalised and an entire commune under siege, police said.

Seven people have been arrested so far in the long-running dispute, which erupted into violence on November 16 when villagers torched four vehicles belonging to a Vietnamese rubber company, prompting military police to retaliate. Tin Bien was awarded the 8,000-hectare economic land concession in 2007, but hundreds of families contest the sale, saying they have lived on the land since 2004.

Speaking on Sunday, provincial police Deputy Chief Chou Sam An said: “We have plans to arrest three more of the leaders on our blacklist because now they, too, are trying to flee from the village.” If convicted, they face up to six years in prison, he said.

A total of 20 arrest warrants were issued in the wake of last week’s violence, which prompted police to cordon off Kraya commune – temporarily cutting off food supplies in the process.

Prom Saroth, one of the besieged villagers, said four representatives tried to flee to the capital on Friday, but they stopped for dinner in Kampong Cham province and were promptly arrested by police.

“Now we are really worried about our security, and we’ve decided to stop going out because we are afraid they will arrest more of us,” Prom Saroth said. Although police are now allowing women to enter and leave, men cannot, he said. “We are afraid they will play a trick to arrest us when we go out.”

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