The Preah Vihear provincial governor has said that 14 villagers who were arrested with their representative for clearing land in a dispute with a private company will soon be released on bail.
Provincial court prosecutor Ty Sovinthal said on Thursday that the 14 would be released next week after an intervention by involved parties.
The Preah Vihear provincial prosecutor added that the court was preparing documents for the release of the 14 villagers and their representative Loy Ly Huor. They had been detained for clearing land in the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary.
“Loy Ly Huor has committed an offence, but because the provincial governor has intervened with the court his release will come within one or two weeks. A government lawyer intervened on behalf of the 14 and is preparing a request to have them released on bail,” Sovinthal said.
A 16th villager escaped after authorities detained him.
Ly Huor, a provincial land community representative, was arrested on Wednesday for confinement and torture, as well as stealing weapons. He has been held in the provincial prison.
The villagers have been detained since mid-January on charges of clearing state land and land belonging to Metrei Pheap, a private company.
Provincial Environment Department director Song Chansocheat told The Post on Thursday that Ly Huor had been detained but did not elaborate further.
Some 300 families have been locked in an ongoing land dispute in Choam Ksan district’s Choam commune.
Representatives of the disputants came to Phnom Penh to ask for intervention by Prime Minister Hun Sen, before it was then requested in February that the provincial governor prepare procedural formalities to release the 15.
Preah Vihear provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, Lor Chann, said on Thursday that the re-arrest of Ly Huor, despite the guarantee of government officials, was unfair as the prosecutor had said it would not happen.
“I hope that they will all be released because the arrests in this dispute came despite it not involving state land. It involves land where the residents have lived since before Metrei Pheap was granted the land concession,” Lor Chann said.
Provincial governor Un Chanda could not be reached for comment by The Post.