The president of Ratanakkiri Provincial Court, Lu Sou Sambath, said yesterday that judges were too scared to investigate complaints by Jarai ethnic minority villagers in a land dispute with Keat Kolney, the sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon.
“Every judge is scared because villagers did not allow [the previous] judge to measure the disputed land,” Judge Sambath said, referring to an incident last year during which a judge visited the village to measure the land without consulting villagers, leading them to object to his visit.
Villagers in Kong Yu village, O’Yadaw district, have complained that since 2007 the court has not taken any action in their case against Ms Kolney, whom they accuse of defrauding them of 450 hectares of village land.
Three judges have been assigned to the case in succession and villagers are still waiting for a fourth judge to be assigned to investigate their complaint.
Judge Sambath said judges also declined to take up the case because it entailed a lot of work.
“Judges do not dare to handle this case because it is very complicated and now the villagers’ lawyer wants the judge to review all villagers’ thumbprints [on legal documents], which are more than 100,” he said.
The villagers’ defense lawyer Yin Savat said Mr Sambath was disregarding legal procedure as judges would have to provide arguments for not taking up a legal case and the court president would have to communicate these arguments to the plaintiff.
“We are considering to file a complaint with the Supreme Council of Magistrates because [Mr Sambath] has not done anything in the case,” he said.
Last Thursday Kong Yu villagers installed a billboard along National Road 78 to call attention to the lack of progress in their legal case. Unidentified vandals tore down the board the same night and police said they are investigating the incident.