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26 Out on Bail After Land Dispute Violence

Banteay Meanchey provincial court released 26 people on bail Friday, but upheld charges against them for violence in a Poipet land dispute.

Police initially arrested 22 men and nine women on July 24 as they pushed them from their land, following a decision by the Supreme Court in a land dispute between two groups of villagers.

All 31 have been charged with destruction of property, incitement and attempted murder, after they battled with local security forces, throwing gasoline bombs, acid and stones, in an attempt to stay on their land.

Two men were released on Sunday under the control of court authorities, and three men remain in the provincial jail.

“Banteay Meanchey court decided to allow the 26 accused to remain out of detention in a verdict on July 29,” according to a decision by investigating judges Ang Mealtey and Soeng Kuch.

The 26 will be required to appear in court when summoned, the judges said.

Oun Ranhya, a 24-year-old defendant released Friday, said the decision was just, “because we lost our land and houses, and the court detained us.”

“We have lived on this land for nearly 20 years,” he said.

He appealed to the court to drop all charges against the villagers.

Sum Chankea, a local coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the villagers were being charged with both civil and penal laws. He said they should only be charged with penal offenses, and should not have been released on bail, because the villagers don’t understand the verdict of the court or the law.