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Phnom Penh court reopens investigation on land case

Phnom Penh court reopens investigation on land case

A verdict in the land encroachment case against a prominent businesswoman was not delivered as expected yesterday, after a judge ordered the case be re-investigated due to a lack of evidence.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court tried Chhin Sokountheary, director of Layimex Holdings Group, in absentia on December 3 over charges of encroaching on public land in the Pong Peay Lake area in the capital’s Sen Sok district in September.

The charge, brought by district authorities, related to a dispute with authorities over 33 hectares of land Sokountheary claims to have owned since 1999, which the government intends to develop, partly as a sports stadium.

Municipal court judge Ly Lipmeng said the case against Sokountheary, also known as Yeay Kraper, or “crocodile grandmother”, would be reheard on December 20 due to a lack of proof.

“There was no information about where the offence was supposed to have occurred and no official report from measurement experts at the Ministry of Land Management about which area of land was in the possession of the accused,” he said.

Suong Sopheaktra, Sokuntheary’s lawyer, said a fresh hearing would find justice for the businesswoman and lead to the charge being dropped.

Sopheaktra said his client had owned 34 hectares of land since 1999. Authorities knew this, he added, because Sokuntheary had paid tax each year.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen on December 6 and obtained yesterday by the Post, Sokuntheary wrote that a government sub-decree had reclassified 33 of her 34 hectares into state property in July.

Ministry of Land Management officials measured the land on August 29 and five of her company’s employees were arrested the next day, accused of clearing state land and preventing officials from measuring it.

Sokountheary was accused of being the “ringleader” and charged but fled to France before a warrant for her arrest was issued.

 

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at [email protected]

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