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Commune chief sued by villagers in Kong Yu

ETHNIC Jarai villagers in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadav district have filed complaints with the Ministry of Interior against a local commune chief in connection with a long-running land dispute involving the finance minister’s sister, villagers said on Wednesday.

Sev Khem, a Kong Yu village representative, said villagers had filed complaints against Chhav Yaing, the chief of Pate commune, for forcing people to thumb-print documents ceding communal land to a local rubber company.

“The commune chief came to persuade villagers to agree to get US$400 cash and 1 hectare of farmland for each family,” he said, adding that the chief’s threats forced the villagers to file their complaint.

The land dispute has pitted Kong Yu against a rubber company owned by Keat Kolney – the sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon – who says she purchased 450 hectares of land for development as a rubber plantation. Villagers say they were tricked into the deal and are fighting the sale in court.

When contacted Wednesday, Chhav Yaing denied he issued any threats to the villagers. “Their village representatives filed a complaint against me about persuading people to agree to get the compensation, but all of the thumbprints were from the representatives’ relatives. The villagers didn’t file a complaint against me.”

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