Appeal Court Delays Hearing In Kampot Salt Farm Dispute

The Court of Appeal on Wed­nes­day postponed hearing the case of a longstanding land dispute over the ownership of a salt farm in Kampot, a court official and a lawyer said yesterday.

Judge Seng Sivutha said he decided to postpone the hearing because some of the members of the three-judge panel were busy, declining to elaborate or discuss the court’s investigation.

However, Kao Soupha, the law­yer representing plaintiff Pheng Thak, 69, said he had requested the postponement because the court had failed to complete its inquiry with local land management officials over the 24 hectares of disputed land.

“The Court of Appeal cannot hear this case unless the location of this disputed land is identified by management officials,” he said.

The Court of Appeal in May and October wrote two letters to the provincial department of land management, ordering it to map the disputed land and conduct a serious investigation into Mr Thak’s claims that prominent local businessman Bun Baraing attempted to grab part of his salt farm. However, neither of the orders were carried out by Wed­­nesday, Mr Soupha said.

Pang Punarath, director of the land management department, said his department could not carry out the work without direct leadership from judicial officials from the Court of Appeal.

“The court in Phnom Penh should come here and lead the investigation at the site,” he said. “I am ready to cooperate.”

Mr Thak and his wife, Kim Chheng, 45, were given the land title to their salt farm in 1989. In November 2008, when they tried to sell the farm, they learned that Mr Baraing, 41, also laid claim to part of the land.

Kampot Provincial Court charged and held Mr Thak in provisional detention in August on charges of destroying flooded forest on the disputed land, but he was released on bail a month later under order from the Court of Appeal.

In March, penal police from the Interior Ministry detained Mr Thak and his wife following a complaint from Mr Baraing alleging that the two were building dams and dykes on the disputed land.


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