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Villagers file ACU complaint

Representatives for 29 families from Preah Sihanouk province have lodged two complaints to the Anticorruption Unit, accusing officials at the Koh Kong provincial court and the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution of corruption in connection with a 2008 land dispute.

One complaint dated Monday and obtained yesterday by The Post alleged that corruption was at the root of NALDR “inaction” in addressing the dispute, which involved land in Stung Hav district’s Tomnup Rolok commune in Preah Sihanouk province, part of Koh Kong province until last year.

Another complaint dated February 28 said various Koh Kong provincial court officials were involved in forging documents and bribery.

The allegations stem from a land dispute between 29 families and tycoon Cheam Phen that has dragged on for about five years and resulted in the jailing of 10 villagers.

The Koh Kong provincial court sentenced eight villagers to 18 months in prison and fined them 20 million riel (US$4,959). Two other villagers earned two-year sentences and remain in prison.

The complaint against the court officials said that the court allowed the case to proceed with falsified documents made by a third party and did not hear evidence against the legitimacy of the documents.

Villagers said in the March complaint that the NALDR’s inaction showed it was just as guilty as the court.

They also called for intervention to secure the release of the two villagers still in prison, Chin Preksa and Chin Sovandeth, and the full exoneration of the other eight.

Last month’s complaint against the court said several officials – including Chief Clerk So Sovannara and prosecutor Meas Vathana, as well as investigating judges Oeung Sarin, Huon Many and Heng Kesaro – faked the documents in two criminal trials related to the land dispute in February and September 2008.

Him Sarath, a representative of families living in Tomnup Rolok commune, said Koh Kong court officials had summoned the eight villagers for questioning, but instead asked them to thumb-print documents which over 30 hectares of land from each person to Cheam Phen. In exchange, court officials gave each villager US$100, said Him Sarath.

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