Source: Khmer Times / Monday, 14 March 2016 by Ros Chanveasna
About 65 villagers from Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Srouch district handed out petitions yesterday urging the National Assembly to push the provincial court into releasing two of their leaders.
Thirty-two-year-old Sy Sin from Taing Samrong commune said: “We rallied in front of the National Assembly demanding the release of our leaders, You Ron and Ith Rom, who were imprisoned last Friday by the provincial court.
“We are currently protesting against the authorities following the arrests,” she added.
“The court had a summons for Ms. Ron and Ms. Rom for questioning at the courtroom, but then they transferred them to prison after being questioned for a period of hours following a protest,” 46-year-old village resident Sam Chanthy said.
Am Sam Ath, a senior technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said the conflict in Phnom Srouch started in 2011. A total of 83 families who have contrasting claims to disputed land recently filed complaints about the matter.
Mr. Sam Ath said that late last year the court issued warrants to place Ms. Ron and Ms. Rom, alongside another female activist, under judicial monitoring after numerous complaints were filed against them by both residents and military servicemen working in Kampong Speu.
“The court ordered them to not come to the land anymore. But they resisted because they claimed the land belonged to them,” Mr. Sam Ath said. “After they resisted the court’s decision, they were detained.”
He added that in order to resolve the land depute, the court should release the women as soon as possible.
According to villagers, during a land titling campaign in 2012, volunteer student surveyors were stopped from demarcating plots because several dozen local residents disputed the boundaries and said some plots overlapped.
Mr. Sin from Taing Samrong added that local authorities had banned groups of villagers from entering and settling on the disputed area. This measure was needed to avoid eventual violence, authorities said.
After a year, there was still no solution to the problem and multiple families continued to claim the right to the disputed plots of land before authorities said they would convert the land into a space to be shared by the entire community.
Mr. Sin, however, says authorities instead sold the community-shared plot to outside businessmen.
“This land was cleared by several bulldozers along with excavators,” he said.
Ms. Chanthy said that shortly after the land was cleared, residents became angry.
“When we asked them [authorities] they just said that they didn’t know about that issue,” Ms. Chanthy said.