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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sam Rainsy party member still in hiding after 4 months

Sam Rainsy party member still in hiding after 4 months

A Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) activist remains on the run months after the Kampong Cham

provincial court accused him of destroying private property in a complex land dispute.

Party leader Sam Rainsy said the case against Lay Horn, 50, a popular leader in his

commune, was politically motivated.

Horn fled his home village of Andong Svay, Prey Kak commune, Stung Trang district

of Kampong Cham a few days before the provincial court investigating judge Sim Kuch

issued an arrest warrant on July 17, 2007. The court accused Horn and several villagers

of destroying private property and grabbing villagers' lands, but Horn argued that

he has grown soy beans on the five hectares of land since 2005.

The Post caught up with Horn this week. "I did not commit what they accused

me of. I have evidence to prove that I occupied the land," Horn, an SRP activist

for the commune since 2002, said in an interview. "I think the land issue is

not a case, it has politics behind it."

Sam Rainsy said Horn is a popular SRP party member in the commune of Prey Kak. He

led the community in a protest for the return of 431 hectares of land from Sim Vanna,

which caused problems with the authorities from the Cambodian People's Party.

"I think it is absolutely politically motivated," Rainsy said. "He

[Horn] had support from the grassroots so they tried to disturb and fault him all

the time."

On November 10, 2007 police arrested Horn's daughters, Lay Srey Leap, 22, and Lay

Srey Mom, 25, and her 8-month-old baby, detaining them at the provincial prison.

They were released November 21 after their relatives and other SRP members intervened.

Horn said police arrested his daughters at the farm when they could not get hold

of him.

"They intended to arrest all the members of the family," Horn said. "I'm

not returning home until the case was solved."

Horn said the Kampong Cham provincial court did not investigate the case well and

accused him of grabbing the land and finally issued a warrant to arrest him.

Since 2002, Horn and other 133 families in the village have been protesting against

the land taken from them by Sim Vanna, former director general of state-owned Boeng

Ket rubber plantation. On February 10 Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened to cut off

431 hectares to divide among the people. Horn gained in popularity and he was finally

elected as Prey Kak commune councilor at the April 2007 local election by the villagers.

According to documents obtained by the Post, villagers had accused Horn and his colleague

of threatening to get money from them for their effort to get the land back. Some

who disagreed filed a complaint with the district authority and on July 6, governor

Kao Sok An wrote to provincial governor Hun Neng to intervene.

Yin Hak Ley, a human rights monitor of Licadho at Kampong Cham, who has followed

the case, said the two daughters were arrested on warrants because they were planting

on the disputed land. "It is very complicated issue," Hak Ley said. "I

cannot say who is right or wrong. Let the court find the truth."

Chhay Koson, Kampong Cham deputy police commissioner, said the case was not politically

motivated, but is a complicated land dispute.



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