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Villagers in a drawn-out land fight summonsed

Villagers in a drawn-out land fight summonsed

Five Tumpuon villagers have again been summonsed for questioning by the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court in a lengthy dispute after private firm Ly Sokim Co Ltd accused villagers of destroying its property.

In the latest summons, dated July 30, villagers are warned that failing to show up will result in an arrest warrant. One man has been summonsed to appear on Friday while four others are requested to appear next week.

“The defendants are being monitored by the court for intentionally inciting violence,” the summons states.

One of the five villagers, Klas Tiv, 56, has already been questioned by the court several times and will appear to answer more questions on Friday.

“We feel anxious and worried because the [land] dispute is still unsolved and authorities have already questioned us several times,” Tiv said.

The dispute stems from the company’s purchase of 22 hectares of land from eight villagers, who owned and cleared the area, prosecutor Ros Saram said in early June.

But more than 30 other families also claim legal rights over the contested area.

Villagers maintain that after clearing the land, compensation was never offered and forced eviction is guaranteed once the company begins development.

“We cleared the land so we could live here and have been cultivating it for years,” Tiv said.

In March, villagers waged a protest and allegedly kicked company reps off the land after they showed up with building materials

The court plans on questioning over 20 people while investigating “incitement of violence” charges, according to the court summons signed by Judge Loch Loa, which makes no mention of any inquiry into the villagers’ claims of ownership.

Villagers say they sought government intervention, even raising $1,500 in February for a man claiming to be an adviser to the National Assembly who ended up defrauding them.

This was just the latest example of provincial courts utilising legal summons as a form of intimidation, said Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc.

“The court is acting illegally and has no jurisdiction over land disputes,” Thy added.

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