Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Indigenous villagers put under court supervision

Indigenous villagers put under court supervision

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A view of Mondulkiri province’s Sen Monorom town. Hong Menea

Indigenous villagers put under court supervision

The Mondulkiri Provincial Court has charged three members of an indigenous community in Laoka village of Sen Monorom town’s Sokdum commune with aggravated intentional damage and violence against a real estate agent and ordered them to appear at the court once a month.

The decision came after the court summoned Phlek Phirum, 40, Phlek Navy, 37, and Khveng Tum, 47, to testify on March 9 in connection with the incident that happened in October last year.

During court proceedings on March 10, more than 20 villagers gathered in front of the court, expressing concern that authorities would detain their representatives.

The court’s ruling signed by Investigating Judge Pok Sin Vanda on March 10 said the investigation would continue and prevent the accused from escaping or engaging in any other activities that could affect the investigation. Therefore, the court would place the accused on bail under court supervision.

“The accused must not leave their homes without permission. They must respond to any summons by those appointed by the judge and must appear at court once a month. The court or the judge may decide to detain the accused temporarily,” it said.

Phlek Phirum, one of the accused, told The Post that the court’s decision was “extremely unfair”. In October 2020, she and more than 70 other residents went to protect the fence surrounding community land. More than 7ha of state land and mountains have been encroached upon and occupied by a group of individuals claiming to have legal rights to the land. But in reality, indigenous people have depended on the land for many years.

“What we protect every day is not just to protect our own property, but protecting state land, especially in this area. My people in the village have been relying on this land for a long time. Instead, the court accuses us. The court should take action against those corrupt individuals,” she said.

Meas Pros, head of administration at the court, said placing the accused under court supervision was at the judge’s discretion.

“That the decision is biased and abusing the people is their accusation,” he said.

Kreung Tola, an adviser to indigenous communities in Mondulkiri, said while he acknowledged that dismantling fences was illegal, the authorities should have educated people first.

He said they only acted to protect community land on which they depend.

“The land was originally a cattle ranch for the people in Laoka village. But we do not know who sold the land. Importantly, the judiciary should change the way it works, and not just to protect the rich and powerful. I want to ask the court to reconsider this case,” he said.

The Post was unable to contact the plaintiffs as the court’s ruling and arrest warrant did not identify them.

But according to the people’s representatives, the occupants of the more than 7ha of land who have sued them are Pet Sophanna and Pet Somana.

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,