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Eight from Chi Kraeng back in court

Eight from Chi Kraeng back in court

Siem Reap province
EIGHT villagers from Chi Kraeng commune are scheduled to appear in Siem Reap provincial court today to answer to an array of charges related to a long-running land dispute with residents of neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune.

Meanwhile, representatives from the two communes met yesterday in an attempt to find a resolution to the dispute, which intensified last year when the court ruled that all the disputed land belonged to Amlong Samnor.

On August 13, the eight accused appeared in court to face charges of incitement, causing injury and destruction of private property during a November 2008 altercation. But the trial was postponed so the men could seek legal representation.

At the time, defendants Sin Noeun, Chea Noeun, Chan Lorm and Sin Sam Lei were released on bail, said Oeun Sam Ath, a court clerk.

But Chheng Savoeun, Sin Leap, Khlin Eang and Chan Leap were kept in pretrial detention because they faced additional charges or had already been convicted in other cases, he said.

Sor Sitha, a village representative from Anlong Samnor commune and one of the plaintiffs in the case, said he and the other plaintiffs – Vann Kin, Kang Noy and Chea Im – would withdraw their complaints if a fair solution could be found at yesterday’s meeting.

He said they would also “propose that the government give the Chi Kraeng side an economic land concession”.

Suos Narin, an investigator for rights group Adhoc, said today’s hearing would be “more serious” if no agreement was reached.

If the two communities reached a resolution, they could file documents detailing the agreement to court officials for “consideration”, deputy prosecutor Sok Keo Bandith said.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said local authorities were not handling the Chi Kraeng case fairly.

“These villagers have been accused on multiple charges ... but they are the victims in this land dispute,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MAY TITTHARA

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