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Court Delays Verdict To Avoid Protest Violence

A judge postponed a decision in a land case to prevent a repeat conflict between villagers and police, as protesters burned effigies in front of the provincial court Friday.

The court is hearing a dispute over 65 hectares of land in Kampong Speu province’s Oudong district, where villagers say a Taiwanese company is taking over property they claim to have owned for more than 20 years.

Judge Keo Mony said Friday the court would delay its decision, “to avoid clashes between authorities and villagers like yesterday.”

Twelve police and 13 villagers were injured in Thursday’s confrontation, when police sought to break up an assembly of protesters, using electric batons and water canons. Sun Bun Chhoun, a 49-year-old representative of the 88 families in the case, said villagers will protest the court until they get their land back.

Protesters burnt effigies in front of the court Friday, he said, to prevent the judge from issuing a verdict “without thinking.”

Investigators for the rights group Adhoc are monitoring the protests daily, an official of the group said.

Ky Dara, a representative of the Taiwanese company, said the protesters were not the rightful owners of the land, which the company purchased in 2000 to run a paper factory.