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Minister backs wife in dispute

Minister backs wife in dispute

Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem for the first time yesterday publicly threw his support behind KDC International, a company owned by his wife, which has been locked in a years-long land dispute with villagers in Kampong Chhnang province.

Speaking at a press conference about sand dredging bids yesterday, Sem said his wife, Chea Kheng, had legally purchased the land in 2007, and had the documentation to prove it.

Sem added that the dozens of villagers who claim to be the rightful owners of the land in Lor Peang village, which they say was illegally seized by KDC, should give up and accept financial compensation and resettlement offers.

“Wanting to live in the same area is impossible, because the place is classified as an industrial zone,” he said. “They do not have the land titles. They just say they have. When we [try to] settle, they disagree. What can we do? They have sold their land.”

Sem said rights groups and politicians had drawn out the dispute by supporting the villagers’ “false” claims.

The claim was firmly denied yesterday by villagers and local NGO Adhoc.

Om Sophy, Lor Peang community representative, described KDC as a “land thief”, and said villagers would not surrender. “We will continue filing complaints for justice. Justice is not only for the rich and powerful,” she said.

Adhoc’s land protection head Latt Ky said the NGO had not backed any side in the dispute, but had listened to the community and sought to show villagers ways of voicing their complaints.

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