A tense stand-off between staff from a South Korean development firm and representatives of tycoon and ruling party Senator Kok An took place in northern Phnom Penh yesterday, over what the Korean company says is an attempted land grab.
More than 20 Korean and Cambodian staff members from developer World City held up placards and prevented excavators and a bulldozer from moving onto the land in Tuol Kork district that Kok An claims, despite legal documents that World City says prove it was purchased from him a decade ago.
“Their actions towards us clearly reflect a violation of our rights as foreign investors, who have always abided by and protected the [country’s] laws,” World City senior vice president Seung Hyung Lee said yesterday.
According to Lee, repeated requests made to An asking him to take the dispute to court have been ignored.
Lee said the dispute between the two parties began around 2009, when An initially tried to claim a 6-hectare strip of canal running through a 116-hectare area that World City had purchased in 2005.
“When he realised he couldn’t claim a canal because it is public property, he moved onto this area,” Lee said, pointing to a strip on a map at the edge of the area his company owns.
According to Lee, while 66 hectares purchased from various owners were integrated into one title by 2009, integration of three titles purchased from Kok An totalling 50 hectares has not occurred, despite repeated requests to the Ministry of Land Management to complete the process.
“We want him to take it to court, because we have all the legal documents showing we have a hard title to this land. We know we will win, but he won’t go to court,” Lee said.
Instead, the threat of a land grab by An’s Phnom Penh Crown Company has simmered for the past four years, with construction equipment and the threat of invasion preventing development being undertaken.
That threat bubbled over this week, after World City reportedly received a phone call from one of An’s representatives on Tuesday evening saying the land would be reclaimed the following day.
Yesterday morning, three excavators and a bulldozer apparently sent by Phnom Penh Crown Company were prevented from entering the land by World City staff, resulting in a stand-off during which witnesses say Lee was assaulted by a uniformed member of Cambodia’s military police. A military police spokesman was unable to be reached.
Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Long Dimanche yesterday urged both parties to file legal complaints.
An could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Hang Bora, an attorney for An’s Anco Group, said that while Phnom Penh Crown is a part of the tycoon’s business empire, he was unaware of the case.