Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Duo to face court over arson

Duo to face court over arson

Villagers gather near the Preah Vihear Provincial Court yesterday to support community members called for questioning over the burning of a rubber company’s office. Photo supplied
Villagers gather near the Preah Vihear Provincial Court yesterday to support community members called for questioning over the burning of a rubber company’s office. Photo supplied

Duo to face court over arson

Two men will be questioned by the Preah Vihear Provincial Court today over allegations they burned down the office of rubber company Ample Focus over a heated land dispute.

The two are among eight villagers sued by the company for destroying their property in Sangkum Thmei district in September last year.

Ke Lout and Huon Sok said they weren’t guilty of the arson attack, which occurred as a protest involving 300 villagers came to a head.

“The company sued us for damaging its office. They thought we were the ones who set fire to it,” Lout said. “I am not the one who burned it, but others were. I was not at the scene at the time. We do not know what action the court will take against us.”

According to the accused, Ample Focus cleared land and blocked villagers from farming their plots, sparking a protest from the 300 villagers.

The villagers say they appealed to authorities for a solution, to no avail.

Lout also claimed Ample Focus had cleared parts of a neighbour’s cashew plantation last year and promised to compensate them to the tune of $500, only for the owner to receive just $62.50.

Kaing Saroeung, a company representative, could not be reached for comment.

Ros Heng, Sangkum Thmei district governor, played down the scale of the land dispute, saying authorities had distributed pockets of land to affected villagers since Ample Company was granted 8,000 hectares in a 2012 economic land concession (ELC).

“It does not affect many villagers. We already solved it. Some people burned and damaged the company’s property, so they were sued,” he said.

He said he believed the arson was instigated by only a few men, and didn’t reflect the wishes of the entire village.

Last night, some 80 fellow villagers travelled 100 kilometres and camped out overnight near the provincial court to support the accused, according to Lor Chann, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

Chann called for the authorities to expedite the land dispute issues in Preah Vihear to avoid land-related unrest.

In a separate land dispute in the province, community members in Chey Sen district last week claim they stopped a bulldozer from sugar company Rui Feng from clearing a small patch of their community forest – property which has been recognised by the government.

“The company cleared to build a road in our community forest, not on its land,” said Mean Loeun, a community leader.

MOST VIEWED

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and