After Petitioning Hun Sen, Couple Offered $10,000 for Land

A CPP lawmaker intervened in a long-running land dispute between villagers in Kompong Chhnang province and the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem last week, according to villagers, who said the parliamentarian promised substantial compensation to two of the group’s most outspoken members.

Representatives of 52 families embroiled in the dispute with the KDC company, owned by Mr. Sem’s wife Chea Kheng, came to Phnom Penh last week to petition Prime Minister Hun Sen to help resolve their seven-year saga.

And their request was granted, according to Snguon Nhoeun, who along with his wife met Wednesday with CPP lawmaker Lork Kheng, who is also vice director of the Phnom Penh branch of the Cambodian Red Cross.

“[Lork Kheng] introduced herself to me as a CPP lawmaker who was assigned by Prime Minister Hun Sen to help resolve the land dispute between us and the KDC company,” Mr. Nhoeun said.

But while the lawmaker eventually offered $10,000 in exchange for the couple’s land, she also told them to give up their fight with Chea Kheng, according to Mr. Nhoeun, who added that he and his wife rejected the offer.

“This offer is quite small compared to what I have lost, including my house, farmland and relatives,” Mr. Nhoeun said. “But she intimidated me, saying that I would not be able to flee, even if I had wings, which I took to be a threat on my life.”

Mr. Nhoeun’s wife, Oum Sophy, has been an outspoken representative of the embattled villagers from Kompong Tralach district’s Ta Ches commune, and last week was among a group of 22 families who asked the provincial court to nullify a compensation agreement reached with Chea Kheng earlier this year, claiming that it was made under duress.

Reach Seima, another of the group’s most outspoken representatives, also said he met with Lork Kheng on Saturday, and said that he was offered compensation of $2,000 and a new house on 400 square meters of land.

“As I am a village representative, I brought the case to villagers who agreed I should accept the compensation to avoid risk to my life after being repeatedly intimidated by the company’s lawsuits and the lawmaker’s threat,” he said.

Mr. Seima said that the exchange would officially be made on Wednesday at the Kompong Tralach district office.

Neither Lork Kheng nor Chea Kheng could be reached for comment.

But former district governor Hul Chantho, who is now head of the district council, said the lawmaker’s involvement signaled that the end is near for the seven-year dispute.

“If there’s an intervention from the prime minister, I would believe the case is surely going to reach its end,” he said.

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