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Land dispute rep to appear before court

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Villagers involved in a land dispute attempt to block a tractor clearing their rice fields following an August court order granting their land to a rubber plantation company in Oddar Meanchey province. Photo supplied

Land dispute rep to appear before court

A representative of more than 100 families involved in a land dispute with a rubber company is seeking the help of a local rights group after being ordered to appear before the Oddar Meanchey Provincial Court on Friday.

Im Chantha, 54, represents 120 families in Anlong Veng commune and was summonsed to court for questioning in relation to a lawsuit brought by Duong Sina, the director of Data Rubber (Cambodia) Co Ltd and a one-star military general. The lawsuit alleges that Chantha violated a court order and caused “intentional damage” by destroying rubber trees.

The land dispute is over 500 hectares of a 7,700-hectare land concession given to Data Rubber after it was cut from the Kulen Prom Tep Wildlife Sanctuary in 2011. In May 2012, a Council of Ministers directive granted 3,354 hectares of the concession to more than 2,000 families, but 120 families claim they never recovered their 500-hectare share.

According to Adhoc provincial coordinator Srey Naren, the Appeal Court ruled in August that the contested land belonged to the company. The families disputed the ruling, however, claiming they had lived there since at least 2003.

According to Naren, the court ruling only took into account the land allotted to the company by the Environment Ministry in 2011 and not the subsequent Council of Ministers directive.

As she has done since the ruling, Chantha refused to acknowledge the court verdict.

“We do not accept the Appeal Court’s decision . . . Why was there no inspection to know who came first and who came later?” she asked.

According to Chantha, Sina instructed security guards to clear villagers’ rice paddies and trees after he became director of the company last year.

“Since Duong Sina showed up, he started to abuse the people. People worry and feel scared every day,” she said.

Sina denied the allegations, as well as the existence of the Council of Ministers directive. A partial copy obtained by The Post shows more than 3,000 hectares of the concession ordered handed over to villagers. Sina also accused the villagers of cutting “hundreds” of the company’s rubber trees.

Article 35 of the Law on Civil Servants forbids government employees from profiting from their position and from directly or indirectly managing a private company. Sina yesterday denied his military rank posed any conflict of interest.

Additional reporting by Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

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