Siem Reap Province
SIEM Reap provincial court has issued a fresh round of summonses in connection with a land dispute between families in two communes, Anlong Samnor and Chi Kraeng, that led to armed intervention by police officers last year, villagers said.
La Mao, 21, one of two men who have been asked to appear before the court, said he received his summons letter on January 27, and that the court date was February 23.
“I have not decided yet whether I will show up at the court or not because I am so afraid,” he said. “They have dared to arrest many people, and this time I think they will dare to arrest me.”
Nine people – including seven who were acquitted in a trial held in October – are currently behind bars because of their alleged involvement in a March 22 incident in which 100 armed police opened fire on 80 residents of Chi Kraeng who were caught harvesting crops on land that Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin had previously ruled belongs to families from Anlong Samnor.
They want to shut up villagers who continuously demand their land.
In December, opposition politicians and rights groups staged a rally in Chi Kraeng demanding that the nine detained people be released.
Loun Sovath, the other man who was called to the court in the most recent round of summonses, said he planned to seek advice from a lawyer from the rights group Licadho, adding that he refused to appear before the court without representation.
“It is a threat and intimidation over the land-dispute case,” he said, adding: “They want to shut up villagers who continuously demand their land.”
Ham Sunrith, deputy director of human rights monitoring and protection for Licadho, said Tuesday that he was not sure whether the rights group would be able to provide a lawyer for Loun Sovath.
Villagers from the two communes have been fighting over a 92-hectare swath of farmland since 2005. When Sou Phirin handed down his ruling, he also offered the Chi Kraeng families a social land concession, an offer they rejected.
Four villagers were shot during the March altercation, though no police officers have been brought to court.
After being criticised by opposition politicians in September, court officials said the investigation was ongoing, but that some of the relevant parties – including residents of the communes involved in the altercation – had been difficult to locate.
Touch Sakal, the Chi Kraeng district police chief, said Monday that as far as he knew, the court was still pursuing complaints against villagers and police officers.
Sok Leang, the investigating judge at the provincial court who issued the summonses, could not be reached for comment on Monday.