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Preah Vihear locals in court over arson accusations

Preah Vihear locals in court over arson accusations

A Malaysian company demanded compensation from 12 Preah Vihear villagers for intentional property damage in a provincial court hearing yesterday, a charge stemming from an ongoing land dispute which saw a fence set ablaze during a protest roughly two years ago.

FP Co Ltd first brought the villagers to court in 2014, following an incident in which the company’s wooden fence was burned down during a protest in Kulen district’s Srayong Cheung village. Some 67 families claim that the government sold the area they live on to the agri-business company as part of an economic land concession, threatening their livelihoods.

FP has demanded $7,500 in compensation from the defendants.

According to prosecutor Sreng Vuthea, the 12 villagers acknowledged that they were in attendance at the protest, but denied burning down the fence, he said.

“We’re poor, so we protested when we lost the land,” said Huon Chan Thoeun, 52, who appeared in court yesterday. “We cannot afford to pay this compensation.”

Thoeun and his family had lost more than 10 hectares to the company, he added.

The company could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A verdict will be handed down on May 17.

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