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Chief accused of discrimination

Villagers in Koh Kong’s Sre Ambel district yesterday said that a local commune chief had not signed paperwork necessary to resolve a land dispute with a sugar company despite orders by the Land Management Ministry to register all affected villagers.

Phav Nueng, 40, from Chikor Krom commune, said yesterday the chief had not signed the documents of residents who had gone to the capital last month to protest, but allegedly did help those in the community who had not protested.

Following the protest in Phnom Penh, Land Management Minister Chea Sophara ordered all affected villagers to be registered within the month.

The 15 families accuse Koh Kong Sugar, owned by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat, and Heng Huy Agriculture Group of grabbing their land.

Commune Chief Tep Hai refuted the allegations that he had played favourites, saying that the commune lacks an “administrative map”, making it impossible for him to validate their documents. “I don’t dare to measure the land without enough documents,” he said, adding that the commune council would convene on Thursday.

Adhoc official Soeng Senkarona said if the favouritism were true, it would mean the commune chief had not followed the law. “It would be a violation of the government’s official [duty],” he said.

In a draft European Parliament resolution circulated yesterday, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance political group calls on the Cambodian government to agree to an audit of claims from thousands of villagers affected by sugar plantations in Kampong Speu, Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey provinces. The resolution includes accusations against the Ly Yong Phat-owned Phnom Penh Sugar for their use of child labour.

Should the government not comply, the group calls on the European Commission to start an investigation that could see “product and sector-specific suspensions” to Cambodia’s EU market access.

Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski

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