2 Kandal Villagers Summoned Over Their Role in Land Dispute

Two representatives of villagers involved in a land dispute in Kandal province’s Takhmau City were scheduled to appear in court today on charges of using violence and trespassing on land claimed by Heng Development Company, a rights worker and a villager representative said yesterday.

Men Makara, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Adhoc, said the court had summoned villager representatives Ieng Yan, 55, and Chea Hy, 46, from Prek Hou commune to the court following a complaint filed by Heng Development.

Judge Thorm Bunna said yesterday that the two villagers were charged with trespassing, before declining to comment further. The owner of Heng Development Com­pany, Sieng Chanheng, re­fused to comment yesterday be­cause the media “usually exaggerated” events.

Mr Makara said the court had charged three villager representatives on July 5, and military police temporarily apprehended Vorn Vin, 44, on Sept 4, but he was later released on bail on Sept 9.

He said the summoning of the two men was part of the ongoing intimidation of villagers by the court, which defended the company’s claims to about 300 hectares of land.

“I think it is a threat to dissuade villagers from protesting,” Mr Ma­kara said.

Mr Yan, one of the summoned men, said more than 100 villagers would converge at the court in order to demand the charges against their representatives be dropped.

“It is very unjust for us because the company has taken our land and then has sued us,” he said. “They sued us because they want us to back down.”

“We will keep protesting or else we have no pieces of land to live on,” Mr Yan said.

Both Mr Yan and Mr Makara said the criminal charges laid against the three were baseless, because the protest at which the violence and trespassing were alleged to have taken place never actually occurred.

Villagers have said the firm had given them a final deadline to vacate their homes and farmland by the end of next month’s Pchum Ben fest­ivities, as otherwise the company would bulldoze their pagoda.

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