Kampong Chhnang Land Activist on Bail, Case Details Remain Murky

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Land activist Tuon Seng, center, was greeted by her family and community members after her release from prison on June 27, 2022. (Snguon Nheun)

The Supreme Court last Friday granted bail to Kampong Chhnang land activist Tuon Seng, who was jailed in January on charges alleging destruction of property. 

Seng has been active within a land dispute involving government-linked individuals, a firm known as KDC International and a community known as Lor Peang. She was questioned alongside two others for alleged destruction of property in a case that officials say is unrelated to her advocacy for the Lor Peang community.

Seng was sent to pretrial detention after being questioned for allegedly burning hay. The two other people in the case, both of whom were accused of colluding with Seng, were released on bail by the court earlier this year, according to community member Oum Sophy.

The land activist left prison on Monday evening after her bail application was accepted by the Supreme Court. Choung Chou Ngy, her lawyer, said the bail application had been issued on Friday but prison officials were slow to process the release documents. 

“It’s normal, after we protested and got good results, the court allowed our client out of jail,” he said.

Seng was taken in late January for questioning to Kampong Chhnang’s Cholkiri district police station along with her grandchild. Police also detained fellow Lor Peang activist Oum Sophy and her husband, Snguon Nheun. After questioning, Seng was sent to pretrial detention while the others were released on bail. 

The community alleged at the time the three were questioned for filming an argument over disputed land in the area that was separate to the community’s decades-long dispute with KDC International. The police maintained the case was for destruction of property but did not give any details at the time.

Oeung Sarith, Seng’s husband, said he was happy his wife was released but was worried because the charges against her had not yet been dropped. 

“I am happy with it and want to ask the court to free her 100% so that she does not remain guilty,” he said. 

Am Sam Ath, a director at rights group Licadho, said there was no evidence to support the detention of Seng and that the court should use pretrial detention only if the charges are credible.

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