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Ratanakkiri villagers decry ‘land grab’ summons

Ratanakkiri villagers decry ‘land grab’ summons

Thirteen ethnic Tumpuon villagers have been summonsed to appear at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on Wednesday over a long-running land dispute with a rubber firm in Bakeo district.

The group has been accused of making threats and land-grabbing by company Khov Kimleng, which has claimed ownership of more than 100 hectares of farmland in Keh Chung commune that community members say is their ancestral home.

The accusations stem from an incident in March 2013, when the villagers, of Pa’or village, blocked the firm’s attempt to bring construction materials to the site.

The summons, issued on December 11 but obtained yesterday, states the villagers are accused under Article 231 of the Criminal Code – which concerns making a threat, and carries a maximum two-year sentence – and Article 259 of the Land Law, which carries a potential five-year term.

The dispute started in 2008 when villagers from the nearby village of Leu Horn sold the community’s land to the company, which was unreachable yesterday, said commune clerk Rocham Pheun, 48, adding the villagers would go to court, where about 100 supporters plan to protest.

“We did not threaten or use violence or grab any land, but the company cleared and destroyed our forest and plantation,” Pheun said.

“We protested to try and stop them, but were accused and charged.”

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