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Kampot men summoned in land spat

TWO villagers involved in a land dispute in Kampot province have been called to answer questions today about attempted murder and defamation allegations lodged against them by the chief of Dop Sralao village, in Teuk Chhou district’s Trapong Pring commune.

Soung Sorn filed a complaint against Chean Sorn and Phan Sareth shortly after a June 16 altercation in which villagers accosted employees of Phnom Penh businesswoman Heav Lon and tried to stop them from clearing 58 hectares of disputed land.

A group of 26 former Khmer Rouge families claim to have lived on the land since 1983 after receiving a concession from the government, but in 2005 Heav Lon accused villagers who were farming the land of destroying her private property.

Chean Sorn said yesterday that he did not know the basis of the complaint against him, but that he had merely gone to the site three days after the altercation to take pictures of the employees clearing the land. “I went down to the land dispute on June 19 to shoot some pictures only,” he said.

Long Ngor, the chief of Trapong Pring commune, said he had already summoned the two villagers based on the complaint from Soung Sorn three times since June 16, but that they had failed to appear.

“I asked them to clarify allegations of murder and defamation to the village chief concerning the land dispute, but they did not do so,” he said.

He said he did not know whether there was a chance Chean Sorn and Phan Sareth would be arrested if they went to the district office today.

Chean Sorn, an investigator for the Kampot NGO Against Corruption Natural Resources Crackdown Interception and Citizens’ Rights Protection Organisation, said he had not decided whether he would appear.

“I am not sure whether I will appear at the police office on Thursday because I am afraid they will arrest me, even though I did not do like that the authorities have accused me,” he said.

Neither Heav Lon nor Soung Sorn could be reached for comment yesterday.

In a letter dated June 28, the Interior Ministry instructed Kampot governor Khoy Khun Hour to prevent employees of Heav Lon from clearing the land until the dispute had been resolved.

Khoy Khun Hour could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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