Six Kuoy ethnic community members have been ordered to appear at the Preah Vihear provincial court on Thursday on charges of “illegal confinement” in Tbeng Meanchey district in 2014, according to the court summonses and Poek Sophorn, an official at NGO Ponlok Khmer.
The six summonses signed by Investigating Judge Chien Sros, were obtained by The Post on Monday.
They order the defendants to appear at Preah Vihear provincial court on Thursday, charged with illegal confinement in Bos Thom village, in Tbeng Meanchey district’s Brame commune, in December 2014.
“The person concerned must bring along documents related to the above case, if any. In case of failure to appear as required above, we will issue an arrest warrant,” the summonses read.
Ponlok Khmer official Sophorn, who has also been sued in the case, told The Post on Tuesday that Sros had summoned six members of the Kuoy ethnic community – Som Phan, Ros Phun, Heang Raimmo, Sok Reang, Lorn Sida and Thong Suth.
“If the authorities want to resolve the land dispute, they should have a mechanism to discuss it with them peacefully rather than using the court to pressure and threaten them. It’s not reasonable that we use such a court system, as they didn’t do what they’re accused of,” he said.
Sophorn requested the Preah Vihear provincial court to drop the charges against the villagers.
Suth, one of the six accused, said he would appear on Thursday as required but dismissed the court’s accusations. “We didn’t confine anyone. We just stopped machinery from clearing our land. We held their machinery so we could seek a solution.
“When the court summons us, it costs us time and money. If we don’t go, they’ll arrest us. They not only cleared our land but also sued us. It’s unjust for our community,” he said.
Preah Vihear provincial court spokeswoman Chum Kaniya confirmed that the investigating judge had summoned the six community members but said she did not know the details of the case and could not comment further.
The land dispute began after Chinese company Lan Feng received an economic land concession from the government in 2011 to create rubber, acacia and sugar cane plantations on land that the Kuoy ethnic community members say is their ancestral territory.
Lan Feng filed a lawsuit at the provincial court against the Kuoy ethnic group and 10 civil society organisation officials.