FIVE ethnic Tampuon residents of Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district have received summonses to appear at the provincial court this week in connection with a violent November 2008 protest, as well as a warning that arrest warrants will be issued if they fail to comply.
The summonses call for the villagers – Pech Ponlork, Pring Ven, Sven Tou, Sev Kry and Ya Khamnea – to appear today and Wednesday.
But Sven Vev, a village representative, said they had not been given enough time to secure legal representation because they had only received the summonses on Sunday.
“Police gave us the summons late, so we can’t go to the court,” Sven Vev said.
More than 60 Tampuon families in Lumphat’s Patang commune are embroiled in a land dispute with the DM Group, a rubber company that has laid claim to 260 hectares of disputed land.
On November 27, 2008, Sven Vev and another village representative were called to the provincial court on suspicion of trespassing on land that officials asserted is owned by the company.
Outside the courthouse, a group of Patang commune residents who had accompanied the pair staged a protest that led to a violent altercation with police, who later filed a complaint against the five villagers who are due to appear in court.
Pech Ponlork, one of the summoned villagers, on Monday echoed Sven Vev’s claim that the five had been given insufficient time to find a lawyer.
“We have no lawyers now, and I will not go to the court without a lawyer,” he said.
Tong Sean, the police chief in Patang commune, said the villagers were trying to stall because they believed the court would charge and potentially detain them.
“It’s not too late to give the summonses to the villagers,” he said.
“They are afraid because they have been involved in this case, including the trespassing on land that belongs to others.”
Luch Lao, the investigating judge, could not be reached for comment on Monday.