Koh Kong Provincial Court yesterday delayed the questioning of eight villager representatives embroiled in a land dispute with ruling party senator Ly Yong Phat’s Koh Kong Sugar Company because the tycoon’s lawyer felt “dizzy” and did not want to come to the court.
The villagers from Sre Ambel district only found out about the delay after 163 representatives of the 220 affected families in Chi Khor Leu commune travelled 130 kilometres to the court, paying for five buses and a night’s accommodation out of their own pocket.
Koh Kong provincial judge Heng Kesro said the sugar company’s legal representative, Nach Tri, had asked for a suspension of the hearing ten days prior to the scheduled hearing, adding he decided not to question their representatives at the lawyer’s request.
The hearing would be rescheduled after the upcoming Pchum Ben holiday.
The Chi Khor Leu commune dispute involves around 1,500 hectares of land villagers claim is theirs that the sugar company has cleared as part of a 10,000 hectare economic land concession granted to it.
“The villagers were glad when the court summoned them to appear about land dispute, but got disappointed after the judge delayed with an early announcement” said Yin Savat, a lawyer at the Community Legal Education Centre.
Kong Song, representative of a villager who was summoned to appear for questioning, said he requested the judge to immediately summon both sides of the dispute and to announce suspensions of the hearing early so villagers did not waste their money travelling to the court to appear.
Nach Tri, company lawyer for Koh Kong Sugar Company, said the reason he asked the judge to delay the hearing was because he could not travel such a long distance from Phnom Penh.
He added: “I was dizzy and sick so I needed the suspension.”