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Hundreds demonstrate on activist’s behalf

Hundreds demonstrate on activist’s behalf

Two days before a land activist’s scheduled sentencing, about 400 people affected by land grabs demonstrated at Pursat Provincial Court in support of the man who frequently protests against the Pheapimex Company.

Kuch Veng, who last appeared in court on May 21, is charged with fraud for allegedly misappropriating funds donated by other villagers. The previous charge of incitement was dropped.

Villagers yesterday converged on Pursat, setting up tents under a bridge near the courthouse. They plan on marching to the court’s fence today and delivering a letter notifying the public of what they say are unfair charges against Veng, said Lon Sivy, a Kbal Trach community representative.

“The court changed the charge from incitement to fraud because [the favouritism] is so clear,” Sivy said. “They want to threaten us and not allow us to protest Pheapimex.”

Veng frequently leads villagers in protesting Pheapimex’s clearing of farm land. The company is owned by Choeung Sopheap, wife of Cambodia People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin.

About 12,000 families are now involved in land disputes around a Pheapimex economic land concession that spans more than 315,000 hectares.

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