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Court returns disputed land to firm in Preah Vihear

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Authorities enforce the verdict in Rovieng district on May 13. SUPPLIED

Court returns disputed land to firm in Preah Vihear

A joint force, acting on the Preah Vihear Provincial Court order, on May 13 confiscated 23.4ha of state land from an individual and returned it to Mekong Rubber Plantation Co Ltd after he was judged to have illegally occupied the land – which had been granted to the company as an economic land concession (ELC).

In executing the court’s verdict, they also arrested three suspects after discovering a large stock of illegal timber stock on the land illegally occupied by Chea Sengkun in Chi Ork village of Rovieng district’s Romny commune.

Police are currently searching for Sengkun, who has been sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison.

Som Sivutha, director of the Forestry Administration’s (FA) Rovieng district cantonment, identified the trio as Kong Heng, 54, from Balaing commune’s Ta Trav village of Kampong Thom province’s Baray district; So Thou, 21, and Heng Chamroeun, 13, both from Kien Svay district’s Dei Ith commune of Kandal province.

“The arrests were made after the joint force found several cubic metres of illegal forest products and by-products on a plot of land illegally occupied by Chea Sengkun. The three suspects initially appeared to be staying there,” he said.

Sivatha added that police found 106 pieces of ta sek timber, almost equal to 6 cubic metres. The timber is currently being stored on the cantonment’s premises. The trio were sent to court for further questioning and were later released.

Deputy prosecutor Kim Samleng confirmed to The Post on May 16 that the three men were allowed to return to their work on May 14 after questioning determined that they were not responsible for the offence.

He added that the trio claimed to be rubber plantation workers and cooks for the Mekong Rubber Plantation and only went to sleep there because they saw that the sawmills were empty.

Samleng said police are currently searching for Chea Sengkun in accordance with an arrest warrant issued by Judge Yut Ponleu on May 5, after the verdict dated January 11 came into force.

Sengkun was sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison by Judge Ponleu for “infringements on ownership and other legal rights to immovable property”.

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