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Villagers questioned in pagoda land row

MORE than 200 residents of Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district gathered in front of the provincial court yesterday as judges questioned two representatives in connection with a land dispute that drew attention from the rights group Adhoc last week.

Both Eang Yan and Chea Hy appeared at the court to answer questions concerning an ongoing row with Heng Development Company, which has threatened to evict nearly 300 families and level the Tuol Tamark pagoda.

Earlier this month, military police arrested Vorn Vun on suspicion of destroying private property in connection with the dispute, prompting Eang Yan and Chea Hy to go into hiding for fear of being arrested themselves.

Yesterday, Eang Yan said that while the two men had not been arrested or charged, they had received a stern warning from judges during the morning questioning session.

“The court did not find a solution for the villagers. Instead, they asked us to stop taking the company’s land,” he said.

Court officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Last week, Adhoc held a press conference in Phnom Penh condemning Heng Development Company, which it said was flouting court rulings handed down in favour of the families.

According to Adhoc, the dispute over the land in question first broke out in 2005, but the court sided against the company twice – once in October 2006 and again in February 2007.

Various altercations related to the dispute have led to the wounding of three villagers, Adhoc said.

Eang Yan said yesterday that court officials told him both he and Chea Hy would be summoned again for questioning at the Kandal Stung district police station, though he said no specific date had been set.

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