Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ethnic Jarai villagers plan protest against inaction in land row

Ethnic Jarai villagers plan protest against inaction in land row

Ethnic Jarai villagers plan protest against inaction in land row

ETHNIC Jarai villagers in Ratanakkiri province will hold a press conference today in order to push provincial court officials to rule on a long-standing land dispute involving businesswoman Keat Kolney, a sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

Sev Twel, 25, a representative of Kong Yu village in O’Yadav district, said yesterday that more than 250 demonstrators planned to gather outside the court and request that it solve the dispute, revolving around 450 hectares of land in O’Yadav.

The Kong Yu villagers have been embroiled in the dispute since August 2004, when Keat Kolney claimed to have purchased 450 hectares of land from the village.

But Kong Yu residents say they agreed to the sale only after commune authorities told them the land was needed for disabled army veterans.
Villagers later signed documents approving the sale, but they say they only agreed to give away 50 hectares of land.

Much of the land has since been cultivated with rubber trees.

Kong Yu villagers filed complaints to the provincial court in 2007, requesting the termination of the sale and a halt to the clearing of the land, but Sev Twel said the court had not taken any action to address their case.

Yong Sarath, a defence lawyer for the villagers provided by the Community Legal Education Centre, said the court had summoned his clients once after receiving the complaint in 2007, but that the case had not been heard since.

“The case has been protracted for a long time. According to the law, the court must handle the case speedily and justly,” he said yesterday.

In May 2010, Yong Sarath said, CLEC lawyers sent a letter to the provincial court requesting that it assign a new judge to the case in order to speed up the investigations.

At the time, CLEC lawyers said the court had promised to make a change, but Yong Sarath said the court had delayed making the appointment and said that it was too busy working on other cases.

Previous trial judge Thor Saron said in May that he had removed himself from the case, but that he did not know which judge would replace him.
Provincial court director Lu Susambath could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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