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First snakes, now ‘arson’

Mak Seav Hour, a resident of Boeung Kak I commune
Mak Seav Hour, a resident of Boeung Kak I commune, holds a bag containing snakes he claims were thrown into his home in Phnom Penh in October by people working for Khun Sear. Pha Lina

First snakes, now ‘arson’

A family involved in a land dispute with a private company in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district, who previously accused the company of throwing snakes into their home, claimed yesterday that unknown assailants tried to set fire to their house to force them to leave.

Ly Seavminh, 26, claimed arsonists linked to Khun Sear Import Export Company attempted to set fire to her family home in Boeung Kak I commune at about 2am yesterday.

“They threw a bottle of petrol into my house and fire started to spread on the wall and burned some car spare-parts [from her father’s small car repair business] and broke a mirror. Outside, they poured petrol around my house, and we saw some four bottles of petrol [scattered on the ground],” she said.

Seavminh said she and the rest of her family were awoken by her cousin, who was sleeping in front of the home at the time of the attempted arson, allowing them to put out the fire before it destroyed the property.

While they cannot be certain of the identity of the assailants, Seavminh said that she and her family suspect that a group of youths who guard the area for Khun Sear, which has claimed ownership of the land since 2013, were behind the crime.

Seavminh’s family is one of three claiming that representatives of Khun Sear – one of which they say is Yim Leang, the chief of Senate President Chea Sim’s bodyguard unit – have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against the residents, who have refused a $15,000 payout.

Calls to Leang were not returned yesterday.

Previous complaints made by the families against the company include violent attacks, throwing snakes into their homes and poisoning their pets.

Yesterday, The Building Community Voice, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, rights group Adhoc, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee and the Housing Rights Task Force issued a joint statement condemning the “continuous harassment” of the families.

They have called on “the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to promptly and independently investigate the case and … charge the persons responsible”.

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