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Jarai man gets day in court

Jarai man gets day in court

A Ratanakkiri Provincial Court prosecutor yesterday summoned an ethnic minority Jarai man in O’Yadav district to explain to the court his allegations that local authorities had threatened to kill him for exposing a land-sale corruption racket.

Romas Chhvang, 45, filed a complaint to the court at the end of October against three commune chiefs he alleges have threatened to kill him for meddling in the secret sale of 480 hectares of state forest land in Ratanakkiri to a private company.

“The three commune chiefs have threatened to kill me if I do not drop the complaint against them that they are involved in selling state forest to a private company,” Romas Chhvang told the Post yesterday.

Romas Chhvang filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc about the involvement of the Yatung commune chief and police chief, and the Ten village chief, in illegally selling 480 hectares of state jungle. Just one hectare was worth more than US$800, he said.

After filing the complaint, Romas Chhvang said he had hid in Adhoc’s provincial office, fearing authorities would follow through on their alleged threats and attempt to kill him if they found him.

“Afterwards, I returned to my village fearfully. Eight villagers were summoned last week by the authorities, who tried to persuade them to stop me  exposing the corrupt land sale,” he said. “But my family has rejected this pressure.”

Neither the Yatung commune chief or police chief, nor the Ten village chief, could be reached for comment yesterday.

Adhoc provincial co-ordinator Pen Bunnar said the case exemplified the widespread, systematic corruption of local authorities in selling state forest to private companies. “Village and commune authorities sign on buying and selling state forest and community land – they have to be responsible for what they did,” Pen Bunnar said.

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