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Siem Reap villagers released

Siem Reap villagers released

Local residents call off sustained protests

THE Siem Reap provincial court on Friday released two community representatives and a journalist from jail after the Appeal Court overturned an earlier decision to remand the men in custody following their arrest in relation to a land dispute last month.

"We released the three men on bail after the Appeal Court ordered their release," Investigating Judge Nguon Nara confirmed Sunday.

The trio were arrested December 26 after allegedly accusing the district governor of interfering in a land dispute between farmers from Siem Reap's Chi Kraeng and Anloung Samnor communes. Following their release, hundreds of Chi Kraeng villagers returned home after staging earlier protests against the incarcerations that forced the Siem Reap court's closure.

But Cha Leak Vanna, a monitor for rights group Licadho, said the land dispute had yet to be fully resolved.

"Although the three men have been released, Licahdo will keep investigating for the case to be resolved peacefully," she said, adding that provincial officials were scheduled to meet with the affected parties today.

Siem Reap provincial Governor Sou Phirin confirmed that he would preside over the meeting, saying that he hoped to secure a "peaceful solution".

He added that the land dispute had been simmering since 2005 and that it would be a challenge to solve the problem "in a proper and serious way".

"I will request for the prime minister to prepare a social and economic land concession for the people who have no land to farm, and to avoid any violence or bloodshed, which benefits nobody."

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