Arrest Fears Keep Accused Land Dispute Leader Away from Court

A community leader accused of incitement in a Kompong Chhnang province land dispute said that she did not appear for her scheduled questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, as she feared arrest.

“They could arrest me if I go to the court to respond [to the allegations], because I know that I have been accused of a crime,” Un Sophy said by telephone, adding that the court summons had not been served directly to her, but to her lawyer Sam Sokong.

Ms Sophy is involved in a land dispute with the KDC International company, which is owned by Chea Kheng who is the wife of Minister of Industry, Mines and Energy Suy Sem.

Mr Sokong, the lawyer, said that he went to the court yesterday to meet Investigating Judge Ke Sak­han, who had issued the summons for Ms Sophy, but the judge did not turn up.

Judge Sakhan said later by telephone that he did not attend the scheduled interview because he was busy investigating another land dispute.

“Whether I will arrest the defendant or not depends on her answers during questioning,” he said.

Ms Sophy has been accused of inciting residents of Lar Peang and Bung Kak villages to continue farming on 108 hectares of land in Kompong Tralach district’s Ta Ches commune. While the title for the land is held by KDC, 77 families claim that they either did not sell their land to the company or sold only a portion of it.

At least three community members have already been jailed in relation to the acrimonious dispute.

Earlier this month, CPP village chief Toch Ly was sentenced by the Phnom Penh court to 16 months in prison after being convicted of for­gery for collecting signatures from families involved in the dispute. Some of those who had signed the document had done so on behalf of other people in their families, according to a human rights worker.

Phat Pouv Seang, a lawyer representing Ms Kheng, said yesterday that he was too busy to speak to a reporter.


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