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Activist called to testify on KDC land row

KAMPONG Chhnang provincial court has issued a second summons for an activist who has been accused of disinformation by a company owned by the wife of a government minister.

Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he had been initially summoned to appear for questioning on September 29, but had been unable to appear because of a scheduling conflict. The court then issued a second summons yesterday asking him to appear on Wednesday, he said.

“I have received a second court summons today after I asked for a delay to appear at the court on September 29,” he said. He added that he was hoping to appear, provided that his lawyer was able to join him.

The complaint against Sam Chankea stems from a December 26, 2009 interview with Radio Free Asia, in which he suggested that the clearance of disputed land in Kampong Tralach district by KDC International – headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem – might have been illegal.

The row originally involved 108 families who claimed to have lived for years on land in Ta Ches commune’s Lorpeang village, which the company says it bought in 1996. In 2007, the company asserted its ownership of roughly 145 hectares of disputed land, saying it had struck a deal with 105 of the families. Rights groups, however, say 64 holdout families never agreed to the deal.

Since 2002, the company has filed complaints against villagers five times, including a case last year in which the village chief was convicted of forging residents’ thumbprints on a complaint saying villagers never sold their land.

Thai Hy, a representative of KDC International, declined to comment yesterday. Phat Pouv Seang, a lawyer for the company, said a company representative had already answered questions at the court.

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