A woman from one of the 339 families locked in a land dispute with the Metrei Pheap company on Tuesday pleaded to the authorities to find her missing husband, claiming military officials have taken him to be tortured.
A military official denied the allegation, saying a provincial governor had told him her husband had escaped from authorities and went into hiding.
Phin Mao told The Post her husband, 54-year-old Sam Moeurna, was arrested by a Brigade 6 military official when he returned from a market.
Mao also penned a letter asking for intervention – dated Monday and addressed to lawmakers Suos Yara and Un Chanda – stating that on January 20 at 5:30pm, military official Luy Sambath arrested her husband while he was driving a tractor transporting groceries in Oddar Meanchey province’s Trapaing Prasat district.
The letter said her husband had been missing since.
Mao said her family had yet to receive any information on whether Moeurna is alive. She said her husband was arrested because of the land dispute.
“No one knows if he is dead or alive, while the military Brigade 6 does not take responsibility for it."
“I would like to request authorities to help find my husband because he disappeared weeks ago. I do not know who is behind this. The man who arrested my husband is the military official Luy Sambath, who guards the company’s land. I asked them, they said they don’t know. I went to look for him at the provincial prison and the police station, but I didn’t see him. I don’t know where he is,” Mao says in the letter.
In late January, some 200 villagers came to Phnom Penh seeking intervention in the land dispute involving Metrei Pheap company on the border between Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces after 13 people were arrested one after another.
Preah Vihear provincial governor Un Chanda said on Tuesday her husband had not been detained or hidden. The man had chosen to run away, he said, because he feared that authorities would arrest him for his involvement in the land dispute.
“He managed to avoid being arrested and no legal action has so far been taken against him. The case made him fear that authorities would arrest him. That’s why he doesn’t dare come forward."
“Neighbours said he’s nearby. I allowed the district governor to meet with his wife [Mao]. She spoke in a normal voice; his wife is helping to hide him. We no longer have measures to arrest him,” Chanda said.
Sambath on Tuesday denied he was involved in arresting Moeurna: “I do not know a thing. Ask the relevant authorities because it’s not my jurisdiction.”
Lor Chann, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that if authorities are secretly concealing someone after arrest, whoever is holding him must face legal action.
The authorities should publicly clarify the issue if the case is not related to them, he added.