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Omlaing villager free after testifying

Omlaing villager free after testifying

KAMPONG Speu provincial court officials allowed a villager from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune to walk free yesterday after questioning him in a case linked to an ongoing dispute that involves a Cambodian People’s Party senator.
Chhon Chuon, 60, has been accused of living illegally on land owned by the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is headed by CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat. Yesterday marked the second time Chhon Chuon had been questioned over a complaint filed against him by Nget Sarun, director of the Thpong district land-management office.
“They asked me why did I buy land that the company legally owned, and who did I buy the land from.” said Chhon Chuon.
“I answered that I bought the land from a former Khmer Rouge, and that the land was received by the original owner from Prime Minister Hun Sen after the reintegration on October 19, 1999.”
He said that after the questioning, Judge Men Rotha told him he would have to report to the court every two weeks.
“In fact, they wanted to detain me ... but after seeing many villagers come to support me at the court, they decided not to,” said Chhon Chuon, referring to the more than 100 supporters who had gathered outside the court.
Judge Men Rotha declined to comment yesterday.
Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said the company was “using the judiciary to force people to accept less compensation”.
He said that at first the company tried to low-ball Omlaing residents, offering them just US$500 and a small plot of land at an undeveloped site near Pis Mountain in exchange for their land plots in Omlaing. When residents refused, the company began filing complaints against the villagers.
Chheang Kimsruon, a representative of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, said that “the conflict is not related to the company”.
She declined to elaborate
further.
Rights groups say that more than 2,000 families will be affected by the 8,343-hectare land concession awarded to the company.

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