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Sugar case sent back to Kampong Speu

THREE men who had travelled from Kampong Speu province to the Interior Ministry in Phnom Penh in response to a summons stemming from a high-profile land dispute were told yesterday that the complaint against them would be handled by the Kampong Speu provincial court.

You Tho, Phal Vannak and Ieng Chiva were summoned to appear at the ministry by In Bora, director of the ministry’s Penal Police Department.All three hail from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, where they have been advocating on behalf of more than 2,000 families affected by a 9,000-hectare land concession awarded to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

The summons relates to a demonstration last month, when about 300 Omlaing villagers blocked a section of National Road 52 in Kampong Speu.
Chheng Kimsruon, a representative of Phnom Penh Sugar, has accused the three men of illegally detaining her during the protest.

Phal Vannak said yesterday that upon arriving at the ministry, the three men were told the case would be handled exclusively by the provincial court.

“We went to the Ministry of Interior, but the official said there would be no questioning because now the case is in the court’s hands,” he said. “I felt relief coming out of the penal office because I thought I would be arrested there.”

You Tho said the three men had been met by Chhean Mony, chief of the Penal Police Department’s Criminal Office, who could not be reached for comment. In Bora also could not be reached.

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said the Penal Police Department should never have gotten involved in the first place.

“It is the Kampong Speu court’s case,” he said, and added that he believed the summons from In Bora had been an attempt “to intimidate people’s feelings so they will fear arrest”.

Chheng Kimsruon, meanwhile, said the Interior Ministry had every right to intervene “to find justice for me”.

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