|Written by Khouth Sophakchakrya|
|Monday, 20 April 2009|
AT least 29 Battambang villagers were arrested and charged with destroying public and private property and assaulting police during clashes along the Cambodian-Thai border on the first day of the Khmer New Year holiday, a court official said.
Sar Yousthavrak, chief prosecutor at Battambang's provincial court, said Sunday the villagers were arrested Tuesday while they fought with police and attacked a Thai-owned casino near the border in Kamrieng district's Boeung Raing commune.
"We detained them in Battambang prison on Friday and are awaiting an investigation," he said Sunday.
He added that the villagers, responding to the reported beatings of two Cambodians inside Thailand, had caused serious injuries to two police officers during the clashes, in addition to vandalising a Military Police car and hurling rocks at the Sranasie casino, reportedly owned by a Thai businessman.
New Year gone wrong
Battambang police chief Sar Theth said that fighting started during a New Year's dance, leading to the attack on the casino early Tuesday morning. He said as many as 60 people threw stones at the facade of the main building and at police brought in to quell the violence.
Police arrested 44 people on the spot, but 15 people were later released when it was found they were innocent of wrongdoing, he added.
"Now we will arrest some more of the inciters of the attack in order to send them to court," Sar Theth said.
Nam Mech, 32, a villager in Kamrieng district's Doung village, told the Post that the villagers who attacked the casino numbered more than 60 and tried to force their way across the Doung border crossing armed with rocks and wooden branches.
But he said the group was turned back by police and Military Police armed with guns and electric tasers. "I and other villagers are very nervous because we have never seen this kind of riot before," he said.