SIEM Reap Prosecutor Ty Soveinthal on Monday began his questioning of Huoy Mai, a 46-year-old villager from Oddar Meanchey province who has been accused of illegally cutting down trees on land at the centre of an ongoing dispute with the Angkor Sugar Company, owned by Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Yongphat.
Huoy Mai’s family was one of 214 that were evicted from the 1,500-hectare plot of land in Kounkriel commune in October, when armed officials bulldozed some homes and burned others to the ground. Seventy families then travelled to Phnom Penh to protest the eviction.
Police arrested Huoy Mai and one other evictee in the capital on Saturday, bringing the total number of arrested evictees to five. Three were arrested immediately after the eviction and are being held on the same charges as Huoy Mai, who police say cut down trees in the buildup before the eviction. The other villager who was arrested on Saturday, Vey Sarin, was released later that day.
Huoy Chhuoy, a villager representative and Huoy Mai’s brother, said his sister had not cut down any trees on the land.
“They should file a complaint to the Angkor Sugar Company because they cut down a lot of forest to develop their farm,” he said, adding that Huoy Mai is five months pregnant.
The court has also issued a warrant for Huoy Chhuoy, who is currently in Phnom Penh.
Thon Nol, governor of Samrong district, which includes Kounkriel commune, said the families who did not flee to Phnom Penh had all accepted 30-metre-by-50-metre houses and a one-hectare plot of farmland as compensation.