The Kampong Thom Provincial Court prosecutor has summoned four community members for clarification after three plaintiffs accused them of grabbing people’s land to incorporate it into community property. The accused have denied the allegations.
Prosecutor Sin Virak summoned Khuon Pet, Oeur Sour, Mai Mam and Khieu Khoy to testify on June 25 and 28.
“Please present yourself for questioning regarding the complaint filed by Suon Chea, Thlok Bunthan and Meng Houy about the theft of land in Nipech commune’s Daun Chhouk village in Kampong Svay district’s Ny Pich commune in June, 2014.”
In early June of this year, 11 members of O’Plalok forest community in Kampong Svay district’s Nipech commune were indicted by the provincial court, and some were imprisoned for nine days before being released on June 18.
Khieu Khoy – president of the Trapeang Lpak forest community and a member of O’Plalok community forestry network who was summonsed and detained – told The Post on June 23 that the dispute occured at the end of January when community members stopped machinery being used to clear more than 72ha of community land.
He added that his community was recognised by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries with the agreement of the Forestry Administration in 2004. It was also recognised by local authorities to protect the community. He hoped the court would solve the dispute fairly and return the land to the community.
“It is very unfair for me and the community because we volunteer to serve the common good and protect forest land for the state in line with the agreement and announcement of the ministry and forestry law. We have testified and denied [the accusations] two to three times, but the provincial court still sent me to prison,” he said.
“As soon as I left prison, there is a new summons concerning the same case ... I am certain that this lawsuit aims to arrest all community members and send them to prison and prevent them from reclaiming the community forest land,” Khoy continued.
Provincial department of agriculture director Pen Vanrith and Forestry Administration head Keo Omalis could not be reached for comment on June 23.
The Post could not contact the plaintiffs for comment.
Provincial court spokesman Say Veasna told The Post on June 23 that both sides had filed complaints against each other.
He urged the two sides to appear in court to testify, saying the prosecutor will thoroughly study the case.
In addition to the summons of four community members, Veasna said the court had also summoned the three plaintiffs who claimed to be owners of the land to appear in court for clarification according to the countersuit by the community.
He said if the matter is consistent, the court will combine the lawsuits into a single case to make it easier for the court to handle.