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Mother, son return to house

Mok Seav Huong stands at the entrance to her house earlier this year in Phnom Penh
Mok Seav Huong stands at the entrance to her house earlier this year in Phnom Penh. Seav Huong’s husband and daughter were arrested on Tuesday and charged in court yesterday. Pha Lina

Mother, son return to house

A mother and son who went into hiding on Tuesday say they were made another cash offer to vacate their homes just hours after two of their family members were arrested over their years-long land dispute.

Mok Seav Huong, 50, and her son, Ly Bun Heang, 18, fled to a “safe place” after Seav Huong’s husband Ly Srea Kheng, 60, and daughter, Ly Seav Minh, 23, were arrested Tuesday.

However, instead of accepting an offer that could bring to an end their battle with the politically connected Khun Sear Import Export company, the mother and son returned home yesterday, vowing to fight on.

“My loving husband and daughter told me they are willing to stay in jail and they do not need me to negotiate whatsoever,” Seav Huong said. “We will live on our land – not anywhere else.”

Srea Kheng was arrested at the family home in the capital’s Tuol Kork district on Tuesday morning. Seav Minh was arrested later that day when trying to see him at Phnom Penh Municipal Court. Fearing his own arrest, Bun Heang fled on foot.

Norn Ony, a legal officer with the Housing Rights Task Force, said Srea Kheng and Seav Minh had been charged in court yesterday for attacking the property’s “legal owners”. Court officials could not be reached.

The family has been fighting eviction from their home in Boeung Kak I commune since 2010, when the government signed over ownership of their land to the Khun Sear company, whose board includes Yim Leang, director of Chea Sim’s Bodyguard Unit. Leang declined to comment yesterday.

The family claims that company “gangsters” have repeatedly tried to intimidate them into accepting compensation to leave. Tactics have included throwing snakes into their house and assault, they say.

Though the mother and son themselves feared arrest yesterday, they had returned home to protect their house from being destroyed, Ony said.

In talks with the company, Srea Kheng has been steadfast about staying in their home of 30 years, Ony said.

Other families have accepted up to $80,000 to vacate property nearby.

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