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Activists have charges dropped

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Phork Sophin (centre) speaks to the press on November 1. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court dropped the charges against her and two other Borei Keila land activists on Friday. Pha Lina

Activists have charges dropped

Phnom Penh Municipal Court dropped the charges against three land activists on December 14, rejecting the accusations of extortion and property damage brought against the trio by the owner of a development company.

The three land activists from Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila neighbourhood – identified as Phork Sophin, Em Srey Touch, and Sear Naren – denied any wrongdoing and called the complaint baseless.

Phork Sophin told The Post on Sunday that the municipal court stopped the investigation and closed the case because they found it to be lacking in evidence.

She added that Suy Sophan – who owns the development company Phanimex – filed the complaint against the three land activists after they protested in front of Sophan’s house on numerous occasions in February this year to demand proper compensation for land dispute cases dating back to 2004.

The dispute started when residents in Borei Keila were asked to move out of their homes to make way for a development project undertaken by Phanimex.

The firm initially agreed to construct 10 new buildings to relocate the displaced residents, but only completed eight, leaving hundreds of families homeless when their abodes were destroyed in a single day in 2012.

Sophin applauded the court’s decision, saying the protesters simply held banners demanding proper compensation from Sophan’s company for land grabbing and illegally clearing their homes.

“We asked the court to drop the charges because we are all innocent. The court dropped all the charges and will no longer summon us to court,” she said.

Fellow defendant Naren told The Post she was happy the charges were dropped and again pointed the finger at the mogul and her company for the wrongdoing.

“I did not do anything wrong, I am not worried. How about people who took my land and destroyed my house? I was simply asking for what is mine,” she said.

Sophan could not be reached for comment on Sunday. But back on November 1, she told The Post her lawyer will pursue a case against the three activists, saying the protesters threatened the destruction of her property when they gathered in front of her home.

She added that all the protestors had previously accepted compensation from Phnom Penh Municipal Hall for their land and so should stop their protests.

Lawyer for the defendants, Terk Naro, could not be reached for comment on Saturday.

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