A Change of Guard

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Saturday 30 August 2014

Lor Peang Villagers Bailed After CPP Lawmaker’s Intercession

Oum Sophy (holding microphone, villagers' representative and wife of one of the jailed activists, appeal for their release in the presence of opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
BY  | the cambodia daily, AUGUST 30, 2014
Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court on Friday released on bail five villagers at the center of a high-profile land dispute with the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem. The villagers’ arrests had sparked a series of recent protests in Phnom Penh.
“The five are now set free,” provincial prison chief Peou Vuthy said on Friday evening.
Three of the men—Snguon Nhoeun, Srun Tha and Kuch Hok—were arrested earlier this month as they attempted to walk to Phnom Penh in a bid to draw attention to their long-running dispute with the KDC company, owned by Chea Kheng, the mines minister’s wife.
Another two men, Mang Yav and Seang Heng, were arrested in July over a protest against KDC that turned violent.
Their release came after the CPP lawmaker for Kompong Chhnang province, Ker Chanmony, told the Justice Ministry that she would personally provide a guarantee for the men—one of three conditions that usually need to be met in the event of granting bail.
In turn, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana wrote to the provincial court to inform it of Ms. Chanmony’s guarantee, according to his cabinet chief, Sam Pracheameanith.
Ms. Chanmony said she intervened in the case due to advice she had received from unnamed “colleagues,” and after 61 villagers filed a complaint with her seeking help in securing the men’s release.
“I used my name as a lawmaker to guarantee them, so then the villagers being held in prison can be released on bail as I promised to help the villagers resolve their issues,” she said.
However, Ms. Chanmony said she also hoped that the men’s release would induce their wives and neighbors to stop protesting in Phnom Penh and return home to Kompong Chhnang.

A group of around 50 villagers have been mounting regular protests from a base in the Boeng Kak neighborhood over the men’s detention since August 14, irritating police and local authorities.
“Now their husbands are freed, so I request that the villagers in Phnom Penh return to the province to resolve the case,” Ms. Chanmony said.
“I will work with all classes of authorities to find a proper resolution to this land case,” she added.
But the villagers said on Friday they would only leave Phnom Penh and return home after the case was resolved to their satisfaction.
“Our villagers will go back for sure only if the authorities and CPP lawmakers completely resolve this land dispute for us,” said Oum Sophy, the wife of one of the bailed men.

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