Company Threatens Suit, Alleging Violence K Speu Sugar Dispute

A business representative of CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat said yesterday she planned to sue a group of villagers she claimed had detained and physically threatened her during a protest on Monday against Mr Yong Phat’s sugar operaitons in Kompong Speu province.

Chheang Kim Sun, a representative of Mr Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company, said she would lodge her complaint with Kompong Speu Provincial Court by the end of the week. She identified one of the people she intended to sue as You Thou, a representative of the families in dispute with the firm.

According to the human rights group Adhoc, Ms Kim Sun, firm employees and a 50-man police force were traveling by the disputed site in Thpong district at around 8 am on Monday when about 300 villagers surrounded them.

Adhoc said the villagers finally dispersed at about 4 pm that afternoon, but only after Ms Kim Sun, and district officials who arrived later, signed a letter agreeing to meet with them Wednesday morning to discuss the dispute. The meeting did not take place.

Ms Kim Sun claimed yesterday that she and her driver had been heading to a nearby pagoda alone when stick-wielding villagers surrounded the pair and forced her to sign the agreement. She said police only arrived after she telephoned for help.

“I will sue Mr You Thou and his accomplices for holding me for 10 hours without food, which is why I fell ill because I am a diabetic too,” she said. “Now I am very sick in Phnom Penh. How could I join the meeting?”

Ms Kim Sun claimed she had feared for her life while surrounded.

“I am suing [Mr Thou] not to seek compensation in cash from him but that man who has been acquitted by my boss must be responsible before the law for his illegal actions,” she added.

Mr Thou was one of two villagers jailed when an angry mob set fire to a pair of makeshift shelters belonging to the sugar firm in late March. The two were released after a few days and Mr Yong Phat dropped his complaint against them in May.

Ouch Leng, an Adhoc monitor who witnessed Monday’s protest, said the villagers were demonstrating peacefully and had merely blocked a road.

“The villagers who protested that time did not threaten the life of that lady because she had a strong force of roughly 50 to 60 armed [personnel] like police and military police at her side to protect here,” he said.

Mr Thou, the villager representative, rejected Ms Kim Sun’s account of Monday’s events, claiming he was not present at the encounter. Should Ms Kim Sun move forward with her complaint, he said he would sue her for his imprisonment over the fire, in which he claims innocence.

As for the land dispute itself, Mr Thou said most of the families thrown off the site were still waiting for the new farmland they had been promised. He said even those that had received new land were having trouble making use of it because it had not been properly cleared. All now worry about planting enough crops by the end of the rainy season to see them through next year.

District officials could not be reached or declined to comment yesterday.


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