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Jailing in KDC case draws fire

Jailing in KDC case draws fire

RIGHTS groups and residents of Kampong Chhnang province have called for the release of a woman convicted of falsifying documents in connection with a high-profile land dispute, saying her sentence has already expired.

In April 2009, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Toch Ly, the chief of Lorpeang village, located in Kampong Tralach district’s Ta Ches commune, to 16 months in prison after finding her guilty of falsifying villagers’ complaint documents.

She was advocating on behalf of Ta Ches families involved in a dispute with KDC International Company, which is headed by Chea Kheng, the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem. The families, who originally totalled 108, say they have lived on the land for years. But in 2007, the company claimed the families had sold the land, and proceeded to bar them from planting crops. As of last June, around 40 families had struck deals with the company, and the remaining 64 were still claiming they had never signed over their land.

Reach Sima, a village representative for Lorpeang, said yesterday that Toch Ly should have been released when her sentence ended in August.
“According to the law, she should have been released at the end of August. I would like to ask the authorities to release her,” Reach Sima said.

Sam Chankea, Kampong Chhnang provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, accused KDC International and officials of trying to hold Toch Ly until she pays a court-ordered fine of 6 million riels (US$1,415).

“Chea Kheng is forcing her to be detained in prison until she can pay,” he said. “She should be released immediately.”

Ek Chheng Huot, the deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court who handled the case, said yesterday that he did not know why Toch Ly was still being detained.

Klot Dara, the newly appointed director of Correctional Centre 2 at Prey Sar prison, said he had not seen any official documents pertaining to the case because he had only assumed his position earlier this month.

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