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Villagers protest land arrests at S'Ville court

Villagers protest land arrests at S'Ville court

OVER 200 villagers gathered at Preah Sihanouk provincial court Tuesday and Wednesday calling  for the release of four villagers detained by the court in relation to a local land dispute.

The four men, from Stung Hav district's Tomnob Rolok commune, were detained Tuesday on accusations of incitement and violating land owned of a local businessman.

Court prosecutor Bu Bunnang told the Post that the case was handed over to investigating Judge Svay Sunh who issued a warrant to detain the four men, but did not comment further.

The four detained men, Yus Saron, Soy Sokha, Kok Bunchhoeun and Ka Sochea, were arrested after being summoned to court Tuesday for questioning about having settled and farmed land allegedly owned by businessman Chhim Hour, said Yus Saron's son, Yus Vuthy, 33.

Ke Nan, 45, a community representative, said 253 families have lived and farmed on the 60-hectare plot since 1997, when they cleared forest and occupied the site.

The dispute began in 2007, she said, when local businessman Chhim Hour claimed ownership of the land and gained recognition from the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes.

Earlier this year, the authority granted plots of land to 103 families living on the land, Ke Nan said, but added that the rest have so far been given nothing.

Chan Chamroeun, a provincial investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said Thursday that the group would "intervene to call for the release of the four men and for a halt to arrests in relation to this land dispute". 

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