A family locked in a longstanding land dispute with a powerful real estate tycoon claims company guards late on Sunday night once again attempted to burn down their Tuol Kok home.
The alleged attempted arson is the latest in a slew of bizarre attacks on the embattled family, which has faced an assault and an arson attack in the past month alone, while three highly venomous cobras were thrown into the family home in October.
Mok Siv Hong, 51, her husband Ly Sreang Kheng, 58, and their son Ly Bun Heang make up one of three families who have refused to turn over their property to the Khun Sear Import Export Company.
The land is constantly surrounded by about a dozen company security guards, whom the families and rights groups claim have carried out the series of attacks and threats.
Ms. Siv Hong said yesterday that the latest attempted arson took place around 11 p.m. as she was sleeping. She said she awoke to the smell of smoke and saw guards setting fire to the kitchen, which is set apart from the sleeping quarters.
“Ten men gathered on my land to try and burn my kitchen. If we did not stop it, it would have spread to my house,” she said. “It didn’t cause major damage, just a small piece of the kitchen burned, but we put it out in time.”
Police downplayed the case, saying they had seen no evidence of a fire. Photos taken by the family, however, show a small blaze.
Boeng Kak I commune police chief Ham Kea said he sent officers to the house after receiving a call from the family.
“We did not see fire damage, we do not think that suspects burned something,” he said.
Yim Leang, chief of Senate President Chea Sim’s Bodyguard Unit and a business partner of Khun Sear, who also acts as his spokesman, said yesterday he had not heard of the case.
“I did not lead the security guards to do that,” he said. “They should send this case to the police and not make accusations and try to make me lose face like this.”
An investigation is being carried out by Housing Rights Task Force, which says the fire appears to fit with past harassment incidents.
“Before, the company used to rent gangsters to threaten them at night,” said Sia Phearum, the organization’s secretariat director.