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Kampong Speu lawyer sued for defamation in land case

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Environmental officials talk to neighbours of a plantation owner who may have illegally cleared land in Kampong Speu province. Photo supplied

Kampong Speu lawyer sued for defamation in land case

Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization director Chea Hean appeared for questioning on Wednesday over a case against Kampong Speu provincial deputy prosecutor Tong Ratana.

Ratana is being sued by Sieng Samen for “defamation, and preventing private land clearing”.

Lawyer Lor Kim Guech who represents Hean said his client was working with the forestry authority in early June at the Phnom O’ral Wildlife Sanctuary to prevent Sieng from clearing forest land in Sre Kin village.

He claimed the land in question was within the sanctuary and was, therefore, illegal to clear.

However, Samen claims she legally bought the land from villagers and has documents and witnesses to prove it.

Kim Guech said: “Regarding this matter, my client already attended the trial and submitted evidence to the court.”

He said all the evidence showed his client’s team acted under the instruction of officials from the Ministry of Environment, and that it wasn’t agriculture land that was cut.

“I look forward to the hearing because I have enough evidence to defend the case,” Hean said.

In her lawsuit, Samen claims she purchased the land with verification from all commune-level authorities, and only cut it to plant crops.

On July 10, ministry officials decided to revoke 20 hectares of land that had been illegally cleared by Kul Vichet, also within Sre Kin village. The land then became state property.

The government has been taking strict legal action against individuals who were found to have unlawfully cleared land in wildlife sanctuaries.

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