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Three summoned in disinformation case

A RIGHTS worker and two village representatives have been summoned to appear in Kampong Chhnang provincial court on October 21 to answer to an array of accusations laid against them by a company owned by the wife of a government minister.

Sam Chankea, a provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, has been accused of disinformation by KDC International, a company headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem. The complaint stems from a December 26, 2009 interview with Radio Free Asia, in which Sam Chankea suggested that the clearance of disputed land in Kampong Tralach district by KDC International might have been illegal.

Meanwhile, Pheng Rom and Reach Seima – two representatives of Lorpeang village, where the land is located – have been accused of defamation and of obstructing the company’s development attempts by staging repeated protests, Pheng Rom said.

All three men were initially summoned to appear for questioning in late September, and then again on October 6. However, the court agreed to postponements on both occasions because of scheduling conflicts with their lawyer.

The company, which claims to have purchased land in the village in 1996, said in 2007 that it had struck a deal with 105 families to gain ownership rights to 145 hectares. However, rights groups say that 64 families never agreed to the deal. Since 2002, the company has filed complaints against villagers five times, including a case last year in which the village chief was convicted of forging residents’ thumbprints on a complaint stating that the villagers had never sold their land.

Penh Vibol, a Kampong Chhnang provincial court prosecutor, said he would “take legal action if [the accused] do not appear to make clarifications on the set court date”.

Sam Sokong, a defence lawyer provided to the three accused men by the legal aid NGO the Cambodian Defenders Project, said he would accompany his clients to court on October 21.

Meanwhile, in Kampong Speu province, a couple has been summoned to appear in court today in a case related to a dispute with a sugar company owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat. Duong Sophat, a community representative from Omlaing commune in Thpong district, said the provincial court had summoned Puth Yoeun and his wife Ouk to answer to allegations that they are living on the company’s land.

According to statistics compiled by Adhoc, during the first nine months of 2010 a total of 272 people had been the subject of complaints filed by companies involved in land disputes, while 128 arrests had been made and 55 people were in detention.

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