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Pursat villagers face questions

More than 250 villagers from Pursat province’s Krakor district accompanied 12 villagers to court yesterday who were being questioned for their role in a protest against the Pheapimex Group, a local developer.

Sok Chamroen, one of the villagers who travelled to the court house, said the protesters showed their support for the 12 villagers because “we do not believe the court will provide justice”.

The villagers were summoned last month to appear in court on accusations of inciting protests, destroying private property and preventing the company from developing private land, according to community representative, Kun Veng, one of those who received a summons.

Ken Veng said that no one incited the protest last month, when about 260 families barred the development company from clearing the community’s forest and farmlands for acacia and cassava plantations.

“I rejected the court official immediately when he questioned me as to who persuaded the villagers to protest,” said Ken Veng. “I also suggested to the court to not charge me and the other villagers, and I propose to the government to find suitable resolutions so both parties can benefit.”

Porng Chansoyutheara, a deputy prosecutor who conducted the questioning, could not be reached for comment.

In January 2000, Pheapimex was granted a 315,028-hectare land concession spanning Kampong Chhang and Pursat provinces. The company is owned by Choeung Sopheap, the wife of Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin.

The land concession has been controversial because it far exceeds the legal limit of 10,000 hectares.

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