Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Court charges villagers over land dispute with Chinese firm

Court charges villagers over land dispute with Chinese firm

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Indigenous people seized Chinese machinery in Preah Vihear province in 2014. Supplied

Court charges villagers over land dispute with Chinese firm

The Preah Vihear Provincial Court has placed more than 10 ethnic Kuoy villagers and an NGO official under court supervision on charges of collusion to detain and confine people illegally over a dispute with a Chinese-owned company.

Investigating Judge Chien Sros issued a letter informing the accused of the wrap-up of an investigation late last month.

The defendants, who had not received the letter until Wednesday, have called on the court to drop all charges against them, citing injustice and an abuse of their rights.

The letters said Ponlok Khmer NGO officials Poek Sophorn and Lout Saing are placed under court supervision on charges of collusion in illegal detention and confinement.

The letter said Pang Sev, Phon Rum, Phou Phen, Norm Thol, Hor Theany, They Hoeun, Yun Sorn, Sral Sokhy and their accomplices are also under court supervision, but on charges of illegal detention and confinement under Article 253 of the Criminal Code.

The offences were allegedly committed in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Brame commune on December 29, 2014.

The case stemmed from a land dispute between the Chinese firm, Lan Feng, and the ethnic Kuoy community who accused the company of encroaching on their ancestral land after it was granted an economic land concession by the government in 2011 for rubber, acacia and sugarcane plantation.

The villagers and Ponlok Khmer staffers said the court charged them for detaining a tractor driver on the disputed land in December 2014. However, they claimed that at the time they only stopped the tractor from clearing their land and did not detain the driver.

Toch Kum, an older sister of ethnic Kuoy defendant Sral Sokhy, told The Post on Thursday that the charges against her brother and other ethnic Kuoy villagers were unfair. She claimed the community rightfully own the land and had cultivated it for years.

“It is not right when they do this to the villagers. I think by placing my brother and the villagers under court supervision, the court has muzzled our rights and freedom."

“The court should drop the charges because the supervision, which requires them to appear before the court once a month, has restricted our freedom to travel. We need to go about our business,” she said.

Poek Sophorn, the Ponlok Khmer official who was charged along with the villagers, told The Post that he was surprised the court had just wrapped up its investigation.

He called on the court to provide justice for the villagers, whom he said should have received compensation for their land instead of an unfair lawsuit.

“I hope the court will do the villagers justice. The company has successfully retained the land for its plantation while the community lost land that belongs to them."

“It is also unfair for the Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to report that the land dispute had been solved when it is actually ongoing,” he said.

Provincial court spokeswoman Chum Kaniya declined to comment, saying she did not have the case files on hand.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures