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Siem Reap land case delayed

Siem Reap land case delayed

Siem Reap Province

SEVEN people facing charges in a land dispute case in Banteay Srey district had their hearing postponed on Wednesday after provincial court judges determined that the plaintiffs did not actually own the land in question.

In 2008, Sun Thea and Tes Sopha filed a complaint accusing the seven villagers of living on their land. All were charged with destruction of private property, said Ho Chheng Ourn, a lawyer for Legal Aid Cambodia who is representing the villagers.

Two of the seven villagers were arrested in September 2009, but one was later released on bail. The other, Vich Vy, was the only one to turn up for Wednesday’s hearing. Ho Chheng said the others were in hiding.

The court allowed only a few NGO workers and two villagers’ representatives to attend the hearing, leaving hundreds of villagers and journalists to wait outside the courthouse.

The case is part of a larger dispute over 173 hectares of farmland in Banteay Srey.

Ho Chheng Ourn said he agreed with the judges’ decision to postpone the hearing.

“This decision is acceptable because it is exactly what we asked the judge to do,” he said.

He said judges had decided to delay the case until the rightful owner of the land could be identified.

Nean Soer, who lives near the villagers facing charges, said the families had been living there since the 1980s and, as such, were the rightful owners of the land. “I am so happy to see the court give our villagers justice,” he said after the judges’ decision was announced.

Ly Veng Heng, the lawyer for the two plaintiffs, could not be reached for comment.

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