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Violence breaks out at R'kiri courthouse

Violence breaks out at R'kiri courthouse

A SKIRMISH broke out Thursday at a provincial court in Ratanakkiri province between 10 armed police and a group of some 40 ethnic minority hill tribe people, a right groups said.

The violence broke out when 10 local police officers entered a provincial courthouse where hill tribe community representatives, along with two members of the rights group Adhoc, were being interrogated on charges of destroying rubber trees belonging to the DM Group, an area business.

Some 40 hill tribe people followed officers into the court after hearing cries for help, the  rights group claimed.

According to a statement issued by Adhoc on Monday, their activists, Svin Vev, 37, and Yang Thang, 45, were "suddenly beaten and strangled, and the deputy prosecutor [Ros Saram] rolled pieces of paper [and] stuck them into their mouths".

The statement added that one police officer was seriously hurt and three or four villagers sustained mild injuries in the tumult.

Deputy provincial police chief Chea Bunthoeun said police did not use violence and were now looking for Svin Vev, who escaped during the fight.

Ratanakkiri court Chief Prosecutor Mey Sokhan said in July this year the DM Group charged the hill tribe villagers with destroying rubber plants.

Mey Sokhan was subsequently taken off the case after the company filed a complaint. He was in a Supreme Court hearing in Phnom Penh when the arrest of the two activist was ordered.

"I am very sorry to hear that violent fighting took place and that Yang Thang was arrested," he said.

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