Cashew Farm Fight Goes to High Court

Calling an appeals court ruling temporarily returning control of a $4 million Kompong Speu pro­vince cashew plantation to its major shareholder “unjust,” a Cambodian woman has taken her case to the Supreme Court.

Sok Sopheap, wife of Cambo­dian minority shareholder Uk Khun and president of Uk Khun’s company, said she has appealed because she’s unhappy with the Jan 3 ruling giving a Singaporean business control of the disputed cashew plantation.

The ruling ignored evidence proving the 12,506 hectares of plantation belong to her and her husband, Sok Sopheap said.

The Singaporean investors alleged Sok Sopheap had used bribery and forged documents to claim total ownership of the Industrial Plant Development Company. Sok Sopheap denied those accusations.

“I never bribed anyone and have done nothing in the dark over this. The land I got was rightfully provided by the government,” she said.

The government issued a license to the company in 1993, when its largest shareholder was Singaporean Chan Yean Fock. In court, Chan Yean Fock’s representatives alleged Sok Sopheap took advantage of the chaos following the 1997 factional fighting to forge documents and take control of the company.

The Court of Appeals ruled last Thursday in Chan Yean Fock’s favor. But Chief Judge Thuo Mony said he has not decided whether he will give control of the company to Chan Yean Fock or allow Uk Khun to keep it.

Under Cambodian law, no foreigners can own property. To get around the regulation, many foreign investors find Cambodian partners. But those deals sometimes deteriorate amid charges of fraud and corruption.

Sok Sopheap said she was given the land in 1991 and obtained land title in 1992. She acknowledged she did not spend any money developing the plantation. She said she was supposed to get five shares of the partnership because she owned the land.

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