Prominent opposition commune official Sin Chan Pov Rozet was handed a court summons last week for allegedly obstructing the implementation of a 2016 provincial court ruling that ordered the return of land to a police officer despite claims it was public property.
The Sam Rainsy Party member, who is second deputy commune chief in Battambang province’s O’Char commune, is scheduled to stand before the provincial court on April 20. She will appear alongside 13 others summonsed for taking part in a January protest objecting to the transfer of land formerly used as a kindergarten to local police officer Sao Buntith.
Buntith claimed the land belonged to his grandmother, who had loaned it to a commune chief in 1984 to build the school. But with the school now gone, he wanted the land returned to him.
“I am not sure who has accused us. I tried to ask the court, but they said I need to have a lawyer in order to get to know what the case is,” Chan Pov Rozet said yesterday.
On January 16, a court clerk and prosecutor from the Battambang Provincial Court ordered that the land be handed over to Buntith, with police officials helping him build a fence around the plot. Villagers then protested the decision to hand public land over to a private citizen, with the hopes that it would be turned into a health centre or school.
Chan Pov Rozet said she was present at the January 16 protest in her capacity as a commune official, and was only monitoring the situation and was unsure why she was being accused of obstructing the court.
She rose to prominence with her aggressive campaigning during the 2012 commune elections, in which she took on longtime sitting commune chief Kem Chhorng before falling just short of beating him. She is currently the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s commune chief candidate for O’Char.
Buntith said he had not filed the complaint and that the prosecutor had asked the CNRP official to come in for questioning. He added that he was only looking to get his land back and never had any intention of filing complaints.
“I have not filed a complaint against those people. Instead, they were the ones who filed a complaint against me in court asking to take the land from me and give to the state,” he said.
Court prosecutor Pang Chan Soyutheara confirmed that he had issued the summons and that Chan Pov Rozet was only being called in for questioning, with no formal charges.