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Two Chi Kraeng men sent to prison for land-dispute row

Two Chi Kraeng men sent to prison for land-dispute row

091028_02
Chi Kraeng villagers recover in Siem Reap Hospital from bullet wounds received during eviction clashes with police in March.

Siem Reap Province
TWO men in Siem Reap province were sentenced to one year each in prison and ordered to pay a combined total of 3 million riels (US$722) in compensation after the provincial court on Tuesday found them guilty of injuring two men in a March altercation stemming from an ongoing land dispute. The court acquitted seven other men arrested in the same case.

All nine accused – who were charged with robbery and causing injury – are from Chi Kraeng commune, the residents of which have been tangled in a five-year imbroglio with villagers in neighbouring Anlong Samnor commune over 475 hectares of land.

Judge Sous La said Tuesday that he had rejected the robbery charges against Chheng Saveoun and Chan Noun, the two convicted men, but that evidence presented by the prosecution indicated that they were guilty of punching two Anlong Samnor residents in the face. Each was ordered to pay 1 million riels in compensation to Em Sophea, who Sous La said was punched “in the eyebrow”, and Chheng Saveoun was ordered to pay an additional 1 million riels to Chey Sovann, who was punched in the face.

Kek Pung, president of the rights group Licadho, said outside the courthouse that she was thankful that the judges had decided to acquit seven of the villagers, though she said the convictions of Chheng Saveoun and Chan Noun were baseless.

“We want to see the court drop the charges against them and let them go to live with their families, because their children and wives need them,” she said.

This view was echoed by John Coughlan, communications manager for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, who said: “CCHR views the verdict as a welcome one as far as the seven are concerned, and we hope that the additional two find justice should they choose to appeal.”

Questions over shootings
The nine men were arrested after a March 22 protest during which 100 armed police opened fire on 80 villagers caught harvesting crops on land that Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin had previously ruled belong to families from Anlong Samnor.

In that attack, four villagers sustained gunshot wounds. No one has been charged in connection to the shootings.

Ham Sunrith, Licadho’s deputy director of human rights monitoring and protection, said Tuesday that the authorities should launch a “deep investigation” into the shootings.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ROBBIE COREY-BOULET

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