REPRESENTATIVES for the families of 22 teachers living and working in the capital’s Sen Sok district filed a complaint with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet on Wednesday, accusing a Ministry of Defence official and the wife of Defence Minister Tea Banh of having grabbed and sold off 6 hectares of land nearly two decades ago.
The complaint alleges that in 1991, the teachers were forced to turn over their land to Chao Phirun, director general of the Department of Materials and Technical Services at the Ministry of Defence, and to Tao Toeun, the wife of Tea Banh. The pair then sold the land, which abuts a local school in Phnom Penh Thmey commune, to businessmen who built villas and homes on it.
Sarom Sothy, one of the teachers, said 4 hectares of the land had already been granted to the teachers so they could live near the school, and that 2 more hectares were stolen from nearby residents.
This is the fourth complaint they have filed to the cabinet, he said.
In 2000, he added, the case reached the Supreme Court, which has yet to hold a hearing.
Um Kong Bunheng, former director of Samrong Andeth Junior High School (now Phnom Penh Thmey High School), said that in 1991 Chao Phirun and commune authorities detained him and the village chief, and forced them to thumbprint a document that transferred ownership of the disputed land to Chao Phirun and Tao Toeun, without making provisions for compensation.
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, said the teachers should abide by the decisions of the courts. “The teachers have no proof. They have lost at the courts. I think we should keep whatever decision the courts decide,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, a monitor for the local rights group Licadho, said that because the Supreme Court had not yet made a ruling, neither party should be allowed to do anything with the land.