The Cambodian Labour Confederation (CLC) has asked the Preah Sihanouk provincial authority to unconditionally release its volunteer and a land activist after they were detained over a land grab allegation at the Kbal Chhay protected area.
The CLC claimed the two were detained unjustly, frightening other villagers and causing them concern while the authority said the arrest of the two was made in accordance with the law.
On Monday, Tep Sopha, a CLC volunteer and Chhay Roth, a land activist and former deputy commune chief of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party, were arrested by police at Group 18, village 1, commune 1, Preah Sihanouk province.
The arrest was made when a group of provincial authorities used machinery to dredge land located in the Kbal Chhay freshwater basin, which villagers claimed belonged to them.
In a statement issued by the CLC on Tuesday, it expressed concern and regret over the arrests and claimed that the authority was carrying out dredging works in the area which over 100 families claim belongs to them.
Hence, the families were angry and entered the canal to protect the land they had demarcated. In the process, the two were arrested.
The CLC claimed that the arrests were unfair and said the two ought to be released.
“The CLC requests the provincial authority to release Tep Sopha and Chhay Roth, without any conditions, and find a solution to the dispute immediately so that the villagers can get ownership over the land,” read the statement obtained by The Post yesterday.
The Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union president Ath Thorn said the villagers are seeking intervention from relevant institutions, and urged the authority to release the two.
“Our volunteer only inspected the area. The volunteer had not even spoken with the villagers yet. He merely told the villagers who went into the area to come out because it might lead to trouble."
“When [personnel from] the authority arrived, they handcuffed and detained him. One villager who saw this was also handcuffed and detained by the authority,” Thorn claimed.
The CLC’s statement also claimed that in addition to detaining the two, the authority had used violence, by firing three bullets, and physically violated and injured the people involved in the land dispute.
Preah Sihanouk deputy provincial governor and the authority’s spokesperson Srun Sron said it’s their right to issue a statement demanding the release of the two.
However, he said they should check the laws and carefully study the situation because the provincial authority only followed the law.
“They released the statement without checking facts and without reference to the legal procedures. They issued a statement without consideration."
“The provincial authority merely follows procedures. The authority must protect the Kbal Chhay [freshwater basin],” he said.
He said the authority detained the two because they interfered with the performance of the provincial authority’s duties. They previously said it had already offered a solution to the villagers, but they continued to protest and insisted the land belonged to them.