Police to release 20 in Tbong Khmum land dispute

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Residents living on company-owned land were evicted on Monday. Facebook

Tbong Khmum provincial police plan to release 20 of 21 protestors on Wednesday, after they were detained for occupying land owned by a Chinese company in Dambe district’s Trapaing Pring commune.

The release comes after two days of questioning.

One man will continue to be detained and sent to court based on a complaint by the company, Harmony Win Investment Co Ltd.

More than 100 policemen surrounded the disputed land on Monday, removing sheds and tents and evicting those living there.

Tbong Khmum provincial hall administration chief Mao Dun told The Post on Tuesday that the protestors are being released because they were not relevant to the complaint.

But he said Hoeurn Sineath will be sent to court, although the charges against him could not be confirmed.

“Upon executing the order, police detained 21 residents who refused to leave the company’s land. We continued to question them and planned to release them on Wednesday. Another resident is subject to the order, so we will send him to court,” Dun said.

He said the residents had been detained because they occupied company land and refused to leave. It is not the first time the land has come under dispute.

On October 17, last year, police arrested Sem Leang a representative of the Sre Praing community in the commune for allegedly entering into a dispute with the company on behalf of 129 families living on 1,000ha. Leang has not still been released.

Srae Praing community member Sem Chamnan told The Post on Tuesday that the residents were unjustly arrested, while their joint complaint against the company was not attended to.

The residents claim to have relied on the land for their livelihoods for a long time and allege that the company colluded with the authorities to evict them. They accused the residents of living on company land, Chamnan said.

“The arrest was made on the orders of the company. Whenever the residents face injustice, the company files a complaint and the authorities ignore them.

“When the company fired guns to threaten residents, the police just ignored it. When the road was blocked to the residents, we filed a complaint with the police and they ignored that too. Do the police work on the orders of the company?” he asked.

Tbong Khmum provincial coordinator for Adhoc, Thim Narin, said the arrest of 21 residents had violated human rights. She said police should have addressed the dispute rather than making arrests and using violence.

“At this point, the residents are not allowed to enter the land in question. It seems their rights and freedoms were stifled because they have the right to protest on the land which they relied on for their livelihoods,” she said.