A 60-YEAR-OLD man in Kampong Speu province yesterday accused the provincial court of questioning him prematurely while investigating a complaint related to an ongoing land row involving a Cambodian People’s Party senator.
The Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Senator Ly Yong Phat, has been granted a 9,000-hectare concession in Omlaing commune, located in Thpong district, that residents and rights groups say has affected 2,000 families.
Chhuon Chuon, a 60-year-old teacher living in Omlaing, said yesterday that he went to the provincial court on Monday afternoon in response to a summons he received late last week. The summons stemmed from a complaint filed by Nget Sarun, director of the Thpong district Land Management office, accusing him and another Omlaing resident of living on land belonging to the company.
The teacher said he went to the court on Monday to request that the questioning, scheduled to be held yesterday, be delayed.
Instead, he said, court officials insisted on conducting the questioning session then and there despite the fact that no lawyer was present.
“I couldn’t find a lawyer, so I went to the provincial court to request a delay for the summons,” he said. “Instead, they began questioning me immediately. I was very surprised.”
He said court officials asked him about various documents he had submitted in support of his claim to land in Om-laing, and that at one point he was asked why he was living on land that didn’t belong to him. He said that he was asked to thumbprint his responses before leaving.
“I answered all of the questions,” he said, “but I wonder why I have this problem with the company and why there was a complaint filed against me.
In fact I think the company told [Nget Sarun] to file the complaint against me when I did not agree with the company’s relocation policy.”
Chhuon Chuon said yesterday that he did not know the whereabouts of Sok Than, another man accused of living on company land who was also summoned to appear at the court yesterday.
Moth Dara, the deputy prosecutor at the provincial court who Chhuon Chuon said led Monday’s questioning session, stated yesterday that he could not remember whether any questioning had occurred. “I can not remember all of the cases because I have a lot of them,” he said.
Meanwhile, the rights group Adhoc yesterday provided the names of five villagers accused by company representative Chheng Kimsruon of illegally detaining her for several hours during a confrontation related to the land dispute last month. They are You Tho, Khun Vuthy, Min Pek, Phal Vannak and Hang Boeun.
Chheang Kimsruon yesterday reiterated her position that the complaint was personal and did not involve the company.
But You Tho, who was held in prison for five days in late March in connection with the same dispute, accused the company of trying to use the court system to stifle villagers’ protests.