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Villager arrest tied to ongoing land dispute

Villager arrest tied to ongoing land dispute

A villager from Kandal province’s Kien Svay district has been arrested and is being held pending charges in connection with an ongoing land dispute with a former deputy provincial governor, villagers  and officials said yesterday.

Villager Khorn Kea, 30, from Samrong Thom commune’s Prek Treng village in Kien Svay, said fellow villager Nhil Sami, 42, was arrested in Chamkarmon district last Thursday while looking for a job.

“She was arrested and detained at Kandal provincial police headquarters and then she was sent to the provincial prison following the arrest,” Khorn Kea said.

Khorn Kea said Nhil Sami was part of a group of 114 families that have been embroiled in a land dispute with former Kandal deputy governor Prak Savuth since he was awarded 46 hectares of land in Prek Treng village by the Appeal Court in 2001.

Nhil Sami’s daughter Thoeun Samith, 18, who visited her mother in prison yesterday, said that Nhil Sami had called on the court to release her. “She feels very sorry that the authorities and the court detained her,” Thoeun Samith said.

Men Dara, provincial investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that at least 19 other community members feared arrest due to their actions in the dispute.

“The villagers cannot run businesses and live in fear because of the land dispute,” he said, calling on local authorities to set up a committee to settle the dispute.

Samrong Thom Commune Chief Buth Vanna said yesterday that she regretted that Nhil Sami had been arrested.

“It was beyond my authority when the police enforced the law,” she said.

“It is complicated, dating back to before I worked as a commune chief here. The villagers live on the land but those who own the land are not the villagers.”

Prak Savuth, now Kratie provincial council chief, is also embroiled in a land dispute in Kandal with Chea Kim, the wife of former Funcinpec Interior Ministry secretary of state Ho Sok, who was killed during factional fighting between Funcinpec and the Cambodian People’s Party in 1997.

Chea Kim filed a complaint to the Anticorruption Unit last week accusing 29 government officials, including Prak Savuth, of stealing and conspiring to sell 13 hectares of land in Kandal province in 1998 that had previously belonged to her husband.

The Supreme Court awarded that land to Prak Savuth on April 21, overturning a 2007 verdict in favour of Chea Kim.

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