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Two held for razing huts in land dispute

3 ratanakkiri fire

Ratanakkiri provincial police on Monday arrested the chief of staff of a Vietnamese rubber concessionaire and his Cambodian translator who are believed to have burned down more than $5,000 worth of property related to a land dispute in O’Chum district, police said.

Meas Pov Bora, chief of the provincial minor crimes office, said that Vietnamese national Ngvieng Hong Fou, 30, chief of staff for a company called CRD, and his translator Sim Borin, 31, were arrested for allegedly setting fire to one house and four huts, and destroying some 200 bunches of cassava plants – alone worth $5,650 – belonging to local landowner Ly Sok Ngim.  

“Some workers were slightly injured when they were trying to escape from the fire,” Pov Bora said. Police are still looking for another Vietnamese national, Loeurng Nub Chi, who is thought to have ordered the destruction.

According to Pov Bora, Sok Ngim bought 242 hectares of land in 2007 and employed 28 families to live on it and tend to her cassava and rubber trees. But CRC, which was granted some 7,500 hectares in the area in 2011, maintained that it owned the land, he added.

Pov Bora said the two were preliminarily charged with intentional property damage – noting that the arson was a minor offence since no one was badly injured.

He said the suspects would be sent to court today.

CRD was the subject of accusations last November that it had used armed guards to scare villagers off its land.

Deputy district police chief Phan Chanthon, said CRD also processed luxury timber for Hoang Anh Ratanakkiri – one of the many subsidiaries of Vietnamese firm Hoang Anh Gia Lai, which recently came under fire in a report by watchdog group Global Witness.

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