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Clash with sugar firm puts villagers in court

Clash with sugar firm puts villagers in court

Kampong Speu provincial court issued summonses yesterday to five villagers from Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, who are involved in a long-standing land dispute with Cambodia People’s Party senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar company.

Village representative from Omlaing commune, Phal Vannak, said the five villagers have been ordered to appear before the court on Monday.

“It [the summonses] is a trick the company plays with the court in an attempt to take our land,” he said, adding that with the Khmer New Year quickly approaching, it is burdensome for the villagers to find time to go to the court.

“Even though it is very difficult, they have to go to court, otherwise they [court] will take the opportunity to arrest us,” he said.

Phnom Penh Sugar received an economic land concession in February, granting the company 9,000 hectares to develop sugar cane.

Land reform project coordinator for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights Ouch Leng said villagers have protested 96 times over the land dispute, resulting in 11 court summonses and 29 penal charges against villagers.

“Kampong Speu court is a tool the company uses to take villagers’ land. If they [court employees] cannot provide justice for the villagers, they should resign from their jobs,” he said.

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