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Ministry calls activists for questioning

AN Interior Ministry official in Phnom Penh has summoned three village representatives listed in a complaint stemming from a high-profile land dispute in Kampong Speu province, prompting concerns that they could soon be arrested.

The three men hail from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, and they have been advocating on behalf of more than 2,000 families believed to have been affected by a 9,000-hectare land concession awarded to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

In a demonstration last month, about 300 Omlaing villagers blocked a section of National Road 52 in Kampong Speu after accusing company employees and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers of attempting to tear down homes.

Company representative Chheng Kimsruon said she had been trapped in her car for hours during the protest, and later filed a complaint accusing five men of illegal detention.

A letter signed on Monday by In Bora, director of the Interior Ministry’s Penal Police Department, summoned three of the men – You Tho, Phal Vannak and Ieng Chiva – to appear at the ministry’s offices in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. Though Chheng Kimsruon said earlier this week that her complaint had been filed at Kampong Speu provincial court, she said yesterday that it had also been filed at the ministry.

Phal Vannak and You Tho said yesterday that they would appear for the questioning session, though both expressed concern that they would be detained.

In Bora could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mok Chito, director of the ministry’s criminal police, said he did not know about the complaint or the summonses.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, accused officials of trying to stave off a protest should the men be arrested, saying it was unlikely a large number of Kampong Speu villagers would travel with them to Phnom Penh.

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