THE Phnom Penh Sugar Company has withdrawn a criminal complaint against two residents of Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune who had been accused of inciting villagers to protest against a 9,000-hectare land concession and of burning company property, a court official said Sunday.
Kampong Speu provincial court prosecutor Khut Sopheang said the complaint had been withdrawn on Friday.
“The reason that the company withdrew the complaint was because both parties have a better understanding and they want the situation to get better,” Khut Sopheang said.
The company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, has been awarded a 9,000-hectare concession in Thpong district that abuts a 10,000-hectare concession awarded to the Kampong Speu Sugar Company, which is registered in the name of Kim Heang, Ly Yong Phat’s wife.
This arrangement has drawn criticism from local rights groups, who contend that it violates Article 59 of the Land Law, which limits the size of concessions to 10,000 hectares.
The two representatives – You Tho and Khem Vuthy – were among a group of four villagers called to the court for questioning in late March in connection with a protest earlier that month that resulted in the Phnom Penh Sugar Company’s makeshift office being burned to the ground.
Both were arrested following the March 24 questioning session, though they were granted provisional release on March 29 after 600 villagers protested at the court. After that, they were made to appear at the court two times each month.
You Tho said Sunday that a document informing him that the complaint against him had been dropped was personally delivered by Ly Yong Phat on Friday.
“Ly Yong Phat came by himself to deliver the court acquittal letter at my house at 11am,” he said.
“I am not surprised that the complaint against me has been dropped, but I regret that my farmland is still going to be cleared by the company.”
Ly Yong Phat could not be reached Sunday.
Klot Pich, the chief of the court, declined to comment on the status of the complaints on Sunday.