Complaint Lodged Against Commune Chief

Villagers have accused a CPP commune chief in Ratanakkiri province of threatening four ethnic minority Tampoun men after they filed a complaint against him for allegedly selling off community land to a local businessman.

Rocham Norng, a Tampoun villager in Bakeo district, has alleged that Soeung commune chief Romam Thaing had threatened him as well as fellow villagers Ting Kimlou, Rocham Hun and Ting Keo.

“He said: ‘If I am imprisoned, at least four of them will be gone and separated from their wives,’” Mr. Norng said, recounting the al­leged threat. “Although he didn’t use the word ‘kill,’ only death can separate us from our families, so he is in­timidating us by saying we will lose our lives.”

The four men represent 50 in­dig­enous families in the community who filed a complaint with Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on March 18 alleging that Mr. Thaing illegally sold off a 52- by 62-meter plot of land for $10,000 to a man known as Mr. Meng.

The plot was originally measured at 1.5 hectares and belonged to a minority community in Kle village, but was handed to the commune authorities in 2006 so that a commune office could be built, along with either a school or health center.

“After getting the land, the prom­ises to build a school or health center for the public’s benefit was never im­plemented,” Mr. Norng said, adding that Mr. Thaing instead “colluded with his subordinates to divide the land into small plots and sell it off.”

The villagers believe the last plot of land was sold in March, which prompted them to file the court complaint.

Reached Monday, Mr. Thaing denied the accusations made against him and claimed that the court had already dropped the case.

“I didn’t do that,” he said of the al­leged intimidation. “The case at court has ended because I am innocent of selling the former commune office land,” he added.

Court prosecutor Chea Sopheak could not be reached for comment, but a letter from the court obtained Monday and stamped September 17 states that the case has been dropped.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the court should take the villagers’ complaint seriously because the kind of intimidation they claim to have experienced is a “serious human rights violation.”

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