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Villagers in court to fight for farmland

Villagers in court to fight for farmland

More than 50 villagers from Kampong Chhnang province’s Kampong Tralach district appeared in court yesterday in a case against KDC International Company, which they claim has illegally grabbed 140 hectares of their land.

“We do not demand anything more than our farmland,” said village representative Reach Seima, adding that several prior lawsuits against the company were dropped when families could not afford separate court fees, and so a joint case was filed in 2011.

According to Seima, KDC International, which is run by Chea Keng, wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem, has sued villagers for defamation, robbing and occupying company land.

Six village representatives have been jailed, but Seima said the families will not give up after fighting the company since 2002.

“I would rather die than relinquish our protest,” he said.

Chhet Thorn, 55, said her husband was in jail for more than six months, released at the end 2013.

“We are not afraid of prisons,” she said. “I hope Phnom Penh Municipal Court will offer justice to us.”

Chan Soveth, senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said authorities should resolve the dispute rather than just lock villagers in prison.

A representative of KDC International could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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