Villagers’ three-year-old land dispute complaint is lost
A clerk at the Kompong Chhnang Provincial Court said yesterday that a complaint filed in 2006 by 64 families accusing the KDC International company, which is owned by the wife of Industry Minister Suy Sem, of forging a document to take land, has been lost.
“It has gone missing since last year,” court clerk Muong Sien said yesterday. “On Saturday last week, I checked the filing cabinet and I found nothing.”
Mr Sien said that Judge Venh Huot had carried out investigations into the case in 2007, but that it was transferred to Judge Sam Sina in 2008 when he replaced Judge Huot.
“I don’t want to blame anybody but since the trial judge [Venh Huot] moved to work in Kandal province, the case has gone missing since that time,” Mr Sien said.
Judge Huot could not be reached for comment on missing complaint against the company of owned by the minister’s wife.
Pov Rom, a representative of the 64 families in Kompong Tralach district’s Ta Ches commune, said that in 1996 families in the area sold 69 hectares of their land from a total of 214 hectares to local businessman Hai Hy. A year later, villagers allege, Minister Sem’s wife, Chea Kheng, claimed ownership over the entirety of their land, he said.
“We need the court to give us justice over the [court complaint about the] illegal activities of a powerful lady in forging the document to grab our land,” Mr Rom said of the missing court document, adding that villagers had requested local rights group Adhoc to help punish those responsible for loosing the case file.
Mr Sien, the clerk. said that while the villagers had the right to submit their three-year-old complain again, he was still looking for the lost documents.
“I think the court is just making excuses,” said Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, adding that the villagers had been prevented from even allowing cattle to graze on the disputed land around which Ms Kheng’s company is now building a canal. It is still unclear what the KDC development company plans to do with the land.
Mr Chankea said he had paid a visit to the provincial court on May 11 asking Judge Sina and the court clerk to bring the case to a hearing.
On May 25, Ms Kheng’s KDC firm filed a criminal disinformation lawsuit complaint against Mr Chankea for comments he made on Radio Free Asia saying the company was performing illegal clearing operations on the disputed land.
Mr Hai, the businessman who originally purchased portions of the land from the villagers, declined yesterday to confirm or deny claims by the villagers regarding the size of the land he bought from them.
Mr Hai did say that Ms Kheng had asked him to be a witness for her company in its attempt to sue the Adhoc staff member.
“It is quite complicated for me to say the exact size of the land I purchased at the time,” Mr Hai said.
“I have a good relationship with [Ms Kheng]. I don’t want any problems, which is why I agreed when she asked me to stand as representative for her firm to sue the Adhoc workers,” he said.
Mr Hai added that the villagers had no right to the land in the first place as they did not possess any “legal” land titles.
KDC International’s lawyer, Phat Pouv Seang, could not be reached for comment while the provincial prosecutor Penh Vibol declined to comment on the matter.