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Villagers summonsed in Rattanakiri land dispute

Villagers summonsed in Rattanakiri land dispute

Four Kong Yu villagers received summonses to appear in Rattanakiri provincial court next month to respond to allegations they cheated, conspired against and defamed a company owned by Keat Kolny, the sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon, in a land dispute.

Provincial court judge Eng Chamnap issued summonses on Friday to ethnic Charay villagers Sev Khem, 18, Romas Fil, 36, Romas Flou, 45, and Sev Pim, 35, of Pate commune, in O’Yadav, district to appear from February 21 to 23 or face arrest.

“Summonsing is for questioning only – it does not mean a hearing is being opened to settle a case,” Eng Chamnap said.

The alleged cheating, conspiring and defaming are said to have occurred in 2007 during a dispute between the villagers and Keat Kolny’s company.

Eng Chamnap refused to reveal who the plantiff in the case was, but Pen Bunnar, co-ordinator for human-rights group Adhoc, said it was Keat Kolny.

“Adhoc has prepared lawyers for the villagers,” he said.

Eng Chamnap said he had prepared a letter to the provincial governor outlining plans for a large-scale demonstration in Rattanakiri province to “demand authorities settle the land dispute for the villagers and condemn powerful people and businessmen grabbing state and villagers’ land”.  

In 2007, Keat Kolny filed a complaint to the court against six Kong Yu villagers and another complaint to the Cambodian Bar Association about six lawyers from the Community Legal Education Centre relating to a disputed 450 hectares of land.

The six lawyers were immediately forced to stop working at the centre.

Neither the summonsed villagers nor a representative of Keat Kolny’s company could be reached for comment.