PREY Veng provincial court was preparing to summon for questioning a group of about 10 villagers embroiled in a dispute over four lakes in Pea Raing district, villagers and a court official said.
The questioning is to take place one week after the court arrested another villager summoned in the same dispute, Sim Ang.
The villagers have accused local officials of illegally selling off the four lakes – which range in size from 2 to 7 hectares – in 2000 to a businessman, Srun Sros, for 19 million riels (US$4,508).
Srun Sros, who could not be reached Sunday, has been selling lotus from the lakes since purchasing them.
Sieng Ly, one of the villagers who have complained about the transaction, said Sim Ang had been summoned last week, and that he had been told by court officials that 10 more would be summoned to appear on Wednesday.
“The lake belongs to the public, so why has [Srun Sros] claimed it as his own property?” Sieng Ly said.
“We have not seen any signs of this development, and 558 families from the village have been affected, as they cannot fish or use the water from the lake.”
Suon Piset, a clerk at the provincial court, confirmed that summonses would be issued for about 10 more villagers, but said the date had not been finalised.
He added that Sim Ang had been detained because police accused him of destroying lotus belonging to Srun Sros.
“His detention is in keeping with the court’s procedure,” he said.
Sieng Ly said the families had filed a complaint on Friday with Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, who is also chairman of the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution.
He said that, on a visit to the site in January, Bin Chhin assured the families that “no lake is to be sold, but rather they will be kept for public use”.
The local officials accused of selling the land to Srun Sros illegally could not be reached for comment yesterday.