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Trio summoned over Dangkor land dispute

Court to question men over charge that villagers paid local official $200,000 to support their claim

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has issued summonses to three men in Kakab commune in the capital's Dangkor district to give testimony in a corruption and bribery case stemming from an ongoing land dispute between local residents and a commune landowner, according to letters written by Investigating Judge Sin Visal and obtained on Monday by the Post.

The letters order Em Chhorn, Heng Sour and Thuon Thou, who claim to represent 120 families involved in the dispute, as well as their lawyer, to appear before the court on Thursday and Friday.

The dispute began with a 2008 directive issued by the Council of Ministers ordering that 120 families be allowed to remain on 6 hectares of land in Kakab commune despite claims of ownership by local landowner Huot Sarom.

Controversy later emerged when Seng Yean, deputy director general of inspection at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, was accused of accepting a bribe from a local woman, Di Prem, on behalf of the families.

Seng Yean was removed from his position on July 31 by an order from Prime Minister Hun Sen, and he and Di Prem were officially charged by the court on August 7.

The families have denied any involvement in the alleged US$200,000 bribe, saying they had no means to raise that sum of money.
The three men summoned by the court and their lawyer, Chan Vichet, declined to comment Monday when contacted by the Post.

But Kao Ty, an attorney representing Huot Sarom, said he had seen the summons letters and characterised the families' claims to the land as unjust.

"I firmly hope that the court will provide justice to [Huot Sarom] and certify that she is the legitimate owner of the land," he said.

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