FOUR villagers suspected of robbing and damaging property in a land
dispute with military Brigade 31 have been released from a Kampot
provincial prison, a defence lawyer told the Post.
Chin Lida, a defence lawyer from the rights group Licadho, said the
Kampot provincial court dropped charges against three Chey Sina
villagers on December 15. A woman charged with damaging property was
sentenced to six months but released Tuesday after finishing her term.
"All suspects involved with the land dispute case are now free," Chin
Lida said Wednesday. "They should have been released because they were
Nhek Chantha, 52; Vong Ma, 46; Moeu Sopheak, 19; and Noeu Kak-Kada, 18,
were arrested and incarcerated on June 23 after protesting the seizure
of their land by Brigade 31.
Nhek Chanthol, daughter of Nhek Chantha, confirmed that her mother
returned home and said the court should not have detained her.
"She spent six months in prison without being found guilty," she said. "She should have been released a long time ago."
Sun Saroeun, the commander of Brigade 31, told the Post that the
villagers could return home and make a living as they did before. He
placed the blame for the dispute on seditious ringleaders.
"If they recognized their mistakes, then they should be released," Sun
Saroeun said Wednesday. "I do not want them to be in jail, but they
need to stop listening to others' provocation."
Presiding Judge Pech Chhoeurt, who ordered the release, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.