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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Widow regains her house

Widow regains her house

AFTER months of anticipation and worry, Keo Sovannavuth finally won a victory

last week at the Court of Appeal.

The 40-year-old widow was returned to

her home of 19 years after the court ruled she was the rightful occupant and

owner of the ground floor of a property on Street 63 in Phnom Penh.

Her

upstairs neighbors, the Uch Yan family, had claimed that they owned the whole

building and embarked on a campaign of verbal abuse, intimidation and physical

assaults to drive Sovannavuth from the house. Sovannavuth said the Uch Yan

family threw household refuse into her yard and at one stage she was beaten by

one of the sons.

Sovannavuth had been originally given the house by the

police in exchange for the villa she was living at in 1980.

When the case

was heard in August last year at the Phnom Penh Municpal Court she produced in

evidence all the paper work from 1980 and among her witnesses was the Sangkum

chief who had witnessed the original transaction 19 years ago.

But during

the hearing Sovannavuth said she was told that the judge wanted a bribe of

$8,000 for ruling in her favor - money that she just didn't have. So she lost

the case and her home.

Although she says she is pleased with the appeal

court result, Sovannavuth is still concerned the matter might drag

on.

The judge gave the Uch Yan family two months to appeal the case to

the Supreme Court, so now she fears that the new appeals judge will be receptive

to bribes.

"I am still worried that the judge will want money to make a

judgment in my favor. But I pray that he will be as fair as the judge in the

first appeal court," Sovannavuth says.

So far, the Uch Yan family has not

filed an appeal, but Sovannavuth has no hope that her upstairs neighbors will

let the case rest.

"They were very angry when I won the case, so I'm sure

they will file a complaint," she predicts.

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