The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court has placed eight men in pre-trial detention on charges of “intentional violence” in relation to a land dispute with tycoon Pheun Phalla, who holds the honorific “oknha” title, in Prey Nop district.
The land dispute involving oknha Phalla and 500 families living O’Oknha Heng commune’s O’Oknha Heng and O’Ta Sek villages erupted into violence on December 20.
Provincial deputy police chief Kol Phally told The Post on December 24 that the suspects had been identified as Saing Kou, 19; Sok Phearum, 31; Sie Rotha,36 ; Lao Teukyou, 57; Chak Sokun, 56; Song Chen, 30; Phan Sapich, 37; and Kong Reaksa, 36.
Prey Nop district police arrested the eight, who allegedly worked for oknha Phalla, two hours after the violent incident between them and a group of O’Oknha Heng villagers.
Phally said police completed their investigation on December 23 and determined that there was sufficient evidence to send their cases to court for further legal proceedings.
He said the provincial court charged the eight men with “intentional violence” on the evening of December 24.
Provincial court spokesman Lim Bun Heng said the eight had in fact been charged with the more serious crime of “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” under articles 218 and 411 of the Criminal Code.
A report from the Prey Nop district police said the violence between the villagers and a group of men allegedly sent by oknha Phalla is related to a dispute over the land that the villagers had lived on for many years.
Villagers said oknha Phalla had been sending his men to the area to prevent them from building houses on the land which he claimed he owns despite the villagers having occupied it without challenge from other parties since 1993.
The report said the tycoon’s workers used sticks, slingshots and even fired a gun several times at the villagers in an attempt to stop them from building houses. The villagers then tried to use stones and sticks in self-defence.
District police chief Huor Yai said on December 24 that at least five people – including two of the tycoon’s men and three of the villagers – had been injured in the violence. A pick-up truck belonging to the tycoon’s company was also destroyed.
“The violence was instigated by Pheun Phalla’s group so they were the people who our police decided to arrest and bring to justice,” he said.
Oknha Pheun Phalla could not be reached for comment on December 24.