Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Four villagers called to court over land dispute

Four villagers called to court over land dispute

District authorities meet with villagers in late February in Preah Vihear after villagers seized four tractors from a contractor that had been hired by Heng Yu, a subsidiary of Rui Feng, which has had several standoffs with villagers over the clearing of forestland. Supplied
District authorities meet with villagers in late February in Preah Vihear after villagers seized four tractors from a contractor that had been hired by Heng Yu, a subsidiary of Rui Feng, which has had several standoffs with villagers over the clearing of forestland. Supplied

Four villagers called to court over land dispute

A complaint filed at the Preah Vihear Provincial Court accuses four Kuoy ethnic villagers of goading some 70 others into confiscating tractors being used to clear community land by a subsidiary of the Chinese sugar company Rui Feng, which has been involved in a series of standoffs over use of forestland.

Soksan Dara, Chebb district governor, said Heng Yu, a subsidiary of Rui Feng, hired a Kampong Thom province contractor to clear the land. The contractor filed the lawsuit following the villagers’ refusal to return the four tractors and bulldozers.

“The owner of the machinery sued them in court,” he said. “It is a criminal case . . . We, the authorities, tried to coordinate [the return of machinery], but they refused to return the machinery, [and] placed it in the forest. We just want to put it at the commune hall.”

About 70 villagers protested on February 25 in an effort to stop the four tractors from clearing the forestland. They then seized the tractors and drove them to the end of the village and removed the keys and batteries.

Villagers claimed that M’lou Prey II Commune Chief Kan Sovankea visited them on Tuesday and Wednesday and ordered them to return the keys and batteries or they would face arrest.

One villager, 38, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisals, said Sovankea identified the four villagers who were sued earlier this month as Than Thany, Rim Thoeuy, Kham Sopheak and Chea Eng.

“The commune chief told me that they will issue an arrest warrant for us by accusing us of inciting villagers to seize the tractors and bulldozers and destroy them,” the villager said.

A court summons, obtained by The Post on Wednesday and dated March 21, orders Thoeuy to appear in court by April 4 for questioning related to “incitement to commit a crime, extortion and intentionally destroying” machinery.
Phy Sithorng, the deputy prosecutor who signed the summons, couldn’t be reached.

Sovankea confirmed having met with villagers and asking them to return the machinery, but said they refused.

The previously unnamed villager denied that machinery had been destroyed. He said they seized it to keep workers out of community forestland.

“The machinery destroyed our land, but authorities never think about how that affects us,” he said.

Dara claimed he and provincial authorities had visited villagers at least three times to solve the land dispute, but villagers have not cooperated.

Poek Sophon, chief of advocacy for local NGO Ponlok Khmer, said the lawsuit against the four villagers was “repression”.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Aeon, Micromax partner again for third mall

    AEON Mall (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a locally-owned Micromax Co Ltd have entered into a partnership agreement to develop fibre optic infrastructure for $200 million Aeon Mall 3, which is expected to be opened in 2023. The agreement was signed on June 20 between Masayuki Tsuboya, managing director of

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and