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Court date set for Koh Kong farmers

More than six years after a sugar company bulldozed their farms in Koh Kong province, some 200 families who have held out ever since, arguing the action was illegal, will finally get their day in court on Thursday.

Seng Kao, one of 24 villager representatives from Chikhor Leu village in Sre Ambel district, said 100 villagers will join them at the provincial court as they make their case.

“We are ready and have witnesses and evidence, such as family books, identity cards, election cards, local administration lists and letters recognized by commune authorities that we have occupied the land since 1979,” He said.

In August 2006, a joint venture now majority owned by Thai firm Khon Kaen Sugar Industry Public Co Ltd and then part-owned by Senator Ly Yong Phat was awarded a roughly 20,000-hectare economic land concession in Chikhor Leu commune.

The villagers have argued that four months prior, partner companies Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co and Koh Kong Plantation Co illegally bulldozed 1,490 hectares of their farmland.

Aim Sokha, a coordinator for the Community Legal Education Center, said the government should nullify its agreement with the company.

“According to the law, we find that the villagers have a more firm legal base, because the companies started clearing villagers land before receiving [permission] from the government,” he said.

Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co lawyer Touch Chhay told the Post he might not attend the hearing as he had duties in Thailand that day.

“For us, we also have evidence,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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