THE Appeal Court is to announce its verdict in a long-running land dispute in Battambang province on November 26, after a hearing on Tuesday, lawyers said.
Since 2002, the dispute has pitted 38 families in Battambang’s Thmor Kol district against a local businessman who says he owns 124 hectares of rice fields occupied by the community, according to lawyer Ho Chheng Ourn.
Ho Chheng Ourn, who represents the families on behalf of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said businessman Ieng Oeung filed complaints against the villagers in Battambang provincial court in 2007, accusing them of illegally occupying his land.
A 2001 provincial court ruling granted the land to Ieng Oeung, he said, but he added that the villagers had no knowledge of the ruling until he went to claim the land.
“These affected families appealed to the Ministry of Justice ... and made reports to Minister Ang Vong Vattana, who issued letters to the provincial court to reconsider the court decree, but it has since been ignored,” he said.
He added that villagers were hoping to also secure the release of Chem Keo, a community representative arrested during the dispute in 2007 and sentenced to one year in prison in September for trespassing on Ieng Oeung’s property.