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Governor asks court to release four villagers ahead of campaign

Governor asks court to release four villagers ahead of campaign

In what seems like “political interference” in court procedures, the Preah Sihanouk governor has asked the provincial court to consider granting bail to four land conflict villagers “before the start of the election campaign in order to avoid protests”.

As received by The Post, Yun Min’s letter dated June 15 urges the court to grant bail to Luch Touch, Kao Heng, Nhanh Cheat and Men Khen, who have been detained since June 8, and would be in pre-trial detention for three months.

“While the legal procedures remain in this case, if the prosecutor and the chief of the provincial court could possibly release them from pretrial detention before July 8, which is the first day of the election campaign, the provincial administration will avoid having to deal with people protesting at the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall almost every day,” the letter said.

The four people were sent to jail on June 8 following a complaint by tycoon Tann Tatt. They were charged with “violence against a possessor in good faith of an immovable property”, according to Article 253 of the Land Law. If found guilty, they could face jail time of between six months and two years.

A Preah Sihanouk-based official of rights group Adhoc said the tycoon and villagers had land ownership certificates.

The villagers claim they had been living on the 85 hectares since 1992 in village 2, Ou Treh commune, Stueng Hav district.

The letter claimed that 620 families had asked the provincial administration to help get bail for the four villagers.

However, this came just two days after Sar Kheng, the interior minister, ordered all provincial authorities to solve land conflicts before the July 29 national elections.

Preah Sihanouk court administrator Yim Bunnareth declined to comment. But Hy Ra, a son of detainee Luch Touch, said he had seen the governor’s letter, but there has been no action from the court as yet.

Adhoc spokesman Soeung Sen Karuna said the governor’s letter could have been prompted by the Ministry of Interior’s order.

However, he welcomed the intervention and encouraged other provinces to follow suit to solve such conflict involving the public.

“This demand is reasonable because if the problems continue without a solution, and people keep protesting, it would affect public order,” Karuna said.

He said protests during the election could convince people that the authorities in the incumbent government had not effectively solved the people’s problems.

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