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Summonses continue in Omlaing row

KAMPONG Speu provincial court has summoned four villagers from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune in two cases related to an ongoing land dispute with a sugar company owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat.

Chim Sarum, 41, Sar Than, 43, and Dul Leang, 28, have been accused of inciting arson in connection with the March 18 torching of a makeshift office of the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by the senator.

The company has been granted an 8,343-hectare land concession that rights groups estimate will displace more than 2,000 families in Omlaing commune.

Meanwhile, another villager, Puth Yoeun, stands accused of living illegally on land owned by the company.

All four men have been ordered to appear in court on November 10.

Sar Than said yesterday that the summonses had made the accused men fearful.

“I am frightened and do not know what answers to give to the court since I did not do what they have accused me of,” he said.

“I only participated in the protest to demand justice from the company because it has grabbed our land.

“This [summons] is meant to intimidate me so I will not continue to protest against the company.”

On March 24, two other Omlaing community representatives – You Tho and Khem Vuthy – were held on charges related to the incident. The pair were later released from jail.

Ouch Leng, a land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said that since March a total of 14 villagers had been accused of breaking the law in connection with the Omlaing dispute.

Judge Keo Mony, who issued the summons, said yesterday that “the reason [the court] is just taking action now is because we were busy with other cases”.

Chheang Kimsruon, a representative of the company, declined to comment. Thpong district governor Toun Song could not be reached.

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