Hundreds of activists with the League for Democracy Party protested outside Kampot Provincial Hall yesterday demanding the release of 13 supporters of the group arrested over a land dispute in Chhouk district’s Decho Aphivat commune.
The 13 were detained on Saturday, though there is disagreement between authorities and LDP members about the circumstances surrounding the case. Kampot Provincial Governor Sim Vuthea said authorities had received several complaints accusing the group of clearing land in Bokor National Park and harassing villagers within a social land concession.
“We arrested suspects who threatened villagers and occupied state land. They cleared land, set fire to the forest, so we used our forces to stop them.” he said yesterday. “We are looking for those behind this; most of them are from Phnom Penh.”
While about 250 people demonstrated in the commune in support of the arrests, LDP president Khem Veasna yesterday told supporters in town the group was wrongly detained.
“All in all, the arrest was done without any evidence,” said Veasna, whose voice was soon drowned out by police playing music over loudspeakers. “The arrest was far from the scene, and they arrested only onlookers. The one who committed the wrongdoing already fled.”
Veasna said the dispute, in fact, related to a disagreement between LDP supporter Ly Kimhong and his cousin over a quarter hectare of farmland. He said the cousin’s sister, via a contact at the provincial hall, filed a complaint, which prompted authorities to take action.
Kampot police chief Mao Chanmathurith said the 13 would face court today.