Kampong Speu provincial court has sent a summons to three villagers to answer allegations of violence in a 2010 clash with police in a land demonstration.
The three men, who deny assaulting the police, say they are afraid the summonses will mean their arrest.
“The powerful and rich win in their complaints to the court,” said Sun Bun Chhoun, who is among those summoned. “The poor wait only to suffer.”
The charges against the three stem from a protest in Udong district in 2010, where villagers say they were being pushed off 65 hectares of land by a private company.
When police attempted to break up the demonstration, officials say 14 villagers and 10 police were injured. In a similar second clash in June, seven villagers and three police were reportedly injured.
The Kampong Speu investigating judge, Iv Borin, summoned Sun Bun Chhoun, 40; his brother, Sun Bun Chhin, 48; and his nephew, Chhaya Chetha, 24, to answer for the clashes. They are expected to appear in court Aug. 9. They face five years in jail under the Untac penal code if found guilty.
Sun Bun Chhoun said he will answer the summons, but he told VOA Khmer that police, who were armed with weapons, shields and batons, were to blame for the violence.
They fired into the air and threatened the demonstrators, he said. “We did not tolerate this, and began to take up clubs to fight back in self-defense. This was a fair thing, and it didn’t injure any police at all.”
Twelve police in all filed complaints against the three men.
Sun Bun Chhoun said he had done nothing wrong, and if the court arrests him next month, “it will be a surprise to the villagers.”
Am Sam Ath, head of investigation for the rights group Licadho, urged the court to consider no detention and to look more closely at the land dispute at the root of the problem.
“We can solve the land dispute to avoid penal charges against those who have suffered in the land dispute, in fear of losing their land,” he said.
Last year, the rights group Adhoc counted some 200 ongoing land disputes, with more than 300 protesters subsequently arrested.