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Lawsuit filed against local Mondulkiri leaders

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Ten Vietnamese and two Cambodian dealers were arrested on January 1 for secretly digging up natural stones. Supplied

Lawsuit filed against local Mondulkiri leaders

Two separate complaints were filed at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court against four people including the first deputy chief of Bou Sra commune, in Pech Chreada district, and a provincial deputy governor.

The case concerned the issuance of land titles on forest land and secretly digging up natural stones in the commune. However, the defendants have denied the allegations.

The first complaint was filed on Wednesday by Pen Bunna, 58, a resident of Chroy Changvar district and an official of rights group Adhoc, and Bunong indigenous peoples residing in Bou Sra commune Kroeung Tola, 30; Brob Tuch, 58; Kvang Chol, 42; Srob Korn, 69, and Saing Soeurn, 56.

The defendants identified as Keng Nhak, the first deputy chief of Bou Sra commune, and Chhim Kan, the provincial deputy governor, were sued for issuing six property ownership certificates, four fact sheets and four ownership transfer letters over forest land.

“According to Old Policy for New Activity No 001 in 2012, only farming land is to be granted to citizens while state forest land cannot be sold, bought and transferred. But the law was violated in Mondulkiri province,” the complaint said.

Tola said they had taken the letters and certificates from the owners directly. Having checked the documents, they saw that the land is within state forest cover.

Issuing forest land titles and buying, selling and transferring such land to be certified by forestry authorities, he said, were criminal offences.

The land owners claimed there were more land ownership transfer and occupation letters.

“So, we will file a request to the prosecutor to open an investigation and take legal action against the offenders. We demand that the six property ownership certificates, four fact sheets and four ownership transfer letters of forest cover be invalidated.

“We also demand that the forest be considered state property,” said Tola.

Bunna, the local community empowerment programme officer for Adhoc, said it was within the peoples’ rights to file a complaint once they see irregularities committed by law enforcement officials.

“According to our past research, the issuance of land titles contradicted the Royal Government’s sub-decree 001.

“So, we must file the complaints in order to open investigations and reclaim the forest land as state property,” said Bunna.

Kan said he had not been apprised of the complaint filed against him by the indigenous community but claimed that what he had so far implemented was in accordance with the law.

He said during his time as the head of the provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in 2012, he had always obeyed the law and had not committed any offence.

“I don’t know how to respond to them. Let the court handle the case according to legal procedure. I did not commit any wrongdoing and have always abided by the law,” he said.

The second complaint was similarly filed by the six plaintiffs at the provincial court on Thursday accusing two Bou Sra commune residents Ket Pleut, 39, and Neurb Taun, 41, of secretly digging up natural stones on January 1.

Tola said he received a police report regarding the offence on January 2, following the arrest of 10 Vietnamese and two Cambodian dealers at the site.

“We were on our way to the natural stone site when we saw 10 Vietnamese and two Cambodian dealers walking away from it. We saw marks indicating that stones had been dug up.

“A day later, I received four phone calls. The speaker tried to negotiate with me for the community to sell the stones from between $100,000 and $200,000. But I refused and reported it,” he said.

Both Pleut and Taun could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Provincial court spokesman Meas Bros said on Thursday that he had already received the complaint from the indigenous community and is currently checking the matter before forwarding it to the prosecutor.

“Once it reaches the prosecutor’s hands, he will conduct his own investigation. But I don’t know when those involved will be summoned,” said Bros.

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