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

  • Government denies claims former Thai PM Yingluck issued Cambodian passport

    Government officials on Thursday denied claims that a Cambodian passport was issued to former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who reportedly used it to register a company in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong-based English language South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Wednesday reported Hong Kong

  • US’ Cambodian ambassador appointment blocked

    The US Senate returned the nomination of Patrick Murphy as Ambassador to Cambodia back to US President Donald Trump on Thursday, as the American government shutdown entered its third week. The US Senate website announcement said it returned Murphy’s nomination as ambassador as his

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million