Court Delays Trial Due to Lack Of A/C, Denies Bail to Woman

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday delayed the trial of a woman whose family has been locked in a lengthy land dispute with real estate tycoon Khun Sear because the air conditioning in the courtroom was not working, a decision that was followed by denying the woman bail.

Ly Seav Minh, 23, and her family have been battling Mr. Sear and his eponymous company for the past five years over a plot of land in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district. She has been in provisional detention since being arrested in November over a 2013 scuffle with Mr. Sear’s security guards, who were monitoring the family and the land at the time of the fight.

A Prey Sar prison guard escorts Ly Seav Minh, second right, into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday for her trial on charges related to a land dispute. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A Prey Sar prison guard escorts Ly Seav Minh, second right, into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday for her trial on charges related to a land dispute. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

No reasons for the delay or the refusal to grant bail were given in court Thursday, but Presiding Judge Svay Tonh said the trial would be rescheduled to March 25.

“We decided to delay this case because of a blackout resulting in the courtroom becoming so dark, and it was so hot in the room,” Judge Tonh explained when contacted by phone after the hearing.

During the hearing, Ms. Seav Minh, who is facing charges of using violence against a property owner under the Land Law, pleaded with the court to release her on bail.

“I will not run away from my house because I am a student, and I was born there,” she said. “I have a previous job and my boss will accept me back to work.”

Ms. Seav Minh added that she needed to care for her aging parents, and that if her provisional detention were to continue any longer, she would “lose everything.”

“If I’m still in this condition [jailed], I will lose everything without even committing any wrongdoing,” she said. “I am the only breadwinner in the family.”

Judge Tonh said after the hearing that he denied bail because he was upholding previous decisions and because Ms. Seav Minh is in good health.

Choung Choungy, the lawyer representing Ms. Seav Minh, said the court was conspiring with Mr. Sear to ensure the family vacated the land.

“With Seav Minh in jail, her family loses income,” he said. “So this move is to force the family to concede the land to the tycoon [Mr. Sear].”

The family home is next to an apartment building that once housed local government and CPP offices and was acquired by Mr. Sear from the municipality in a land swap approved in 2010.

Ly Sreang Kheng, the family patriarch, claims that Mr. Sear “cheated” by claiming land around the building, including the small plot where his house sits, in 2013 through the municipal land management office. The court last week sided with the company and gave the family 30 days to appeal its decision to award the land to Mr. Sear.

Outside the courtroom following the hearing, Ms. Seav Minh shouted to rights monitors as a prison guard dragged her away, “Do not worry! I am not afraid!”

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