Community representative claims he is not guilty, while local rights groups decry the sentence, half of which was suspended
THE latest episode in the protracted dispute over the Dey Krahorm community played out in a legal battleground Monday when the Phnom Penh Municipality Court sentenced a former community representative, Lor Seiha, to three years in jail and ordered him to pay US$250 in compensation.
Lor Seiha was arrested July 16 on charges of falsifying documents and defamation as he sought to mobilise the community against developer 7NG.
On Monday he was found guilty on both charges, as well as of assaulting Dey Krahorm community leader, Soeung Yikou, and sentenced to jail. He is to serve half his term.
The accusations against Lor Seiha were made by seven Dey Krahorm community representatives who had agreed to leave the land and accept payment from 7NG.
Lor Seiha argued that he did not falsify any documents but that some 972 Dey Krahorm families had genuinely asked him to represent them.
"I did not force people to put their thumbprint on paper to get rid of the community leader, but people asked me to help them," Lor Seiha told the Post after his hearing Monday.
Lor Seiha's lawyer, who was absent from the hearing, questioned the verdict, saying "the people nominated my client as their representative to help them reclaim their land".
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor from the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said that the judgment is unjust because all Lor Seiha did was to try to protect the Dey Krahorm community.
According Phan Narin, one of the community representatives, only 90 of the original 1,465 families remain in Dey Krahorm, while the rest have moved to Damnak Trayoeng village in Dangkao district.
Development company 7NG has claimed the land, but residents say that their properties were given to them by Prime Minister Hun Sen as a "social land concession" in July 2003. The remaining families are currently fighting for an on-site apartment building.