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Teacher called to court in row with sugar firm

KAMPONG Speu provincial court has summoned a 60-year-old teacher for a second round of questioning over a complaint related to an ongoing dispute that involves a Cambodian People’s Party senator.

The Phnom Penh Sugar Company, owned by Senator Ly Yong Phat, has been granted an 8,343-hectare land concession in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune that residents and rights groups say has affected more than 2,000 families.

“The company wants my land and has been trying to persecute me ... by using the judicial system to put pressure on me,” Chhuon Chuon, the summoned teacher, said yesterday. “They have filed a complaint accusing me of living on the company’s land ... in an attempt to force me to move out.”

Chhuon Chuon said he had been ordered to appear in court on Tuesday, following an initial round of questioning last month. The summons stems from a complaint filed by Nget Sarun, director of the Thpong district Land Management office, who has accused Chhuon Chuon and another Omlaing resident of living illegally on company land.

“The company threatened that they would take my land at whatever cost. This time, I am concerned that they may hold me at the court in order to intimidate me and force me to cede my land to them,” Chhuon Chuon said.

Kampong Speu deputy prosecutor Moth Dara, who faced criticism in September after the court questioned Chhuon Chuon one day before his actual court date, declined to answer questions yesterday. “I am not in charge of the Omlaing villagers’ case,” he said.

Phal Vannak, an Omlaing commune representative, said legal action had only served to intensify the row. “It has become a common problem for the villagers here ... the company always files a complaint against them when it wants something,” he said.

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