The Kompong Speu Provincial Court is squaring off against an RCAF general in a Kompong Speu land dispute.
General Chum Tong Heng, the Defense Ministry’s commander of military development, has twice ignored a court summons to answer a complaint filed by more than 110 families of soldiers who say they were unfairly evicted from their land.
Chum Tong Heng signed an eviction order Dec 11 telling soldiers and their families to clear off 103 hectares of land in Phnom Srouch district, near National Road 4, and move to another location 8 km away.
The families said last week that they have been living on the land since 1994, two years before the Bureau for Military Development of the Defense Ministry decided the land belonged to the military.
The families maintain that the land belongs to them. They cleared land mines in the area to create agricultural and residential land and also built a school, the families’ representatives said.
Kompong Speu Judge You Yoeuny has called two informal meetings to discuss the dispute—the latest was held last week—but Chum Tong Heng did not attend either. He did not appear in court even though he was issued a summon twice.
The general, when contacted by the Cambodia Daily, said that the military, by law, owns land that no civilians live on. He said that the land dispute is an internal affair of the army and should be dealt with by a military court.
You Yoeuny had a different view.
“We just can’t agree that the case is military affair,” he said after the second meeting last week. “We require [the military] to provide enough evidence to prove that the case must be handled by the military court.”
Another court meeting has not been set yet.
Plaintiff’s counselor George Cooper of Legal Aid of Cambodia said that based on a 1989 Council of Ministries subdecree, the families are entitled to remain on the land.
and should be given land title certificates.
The subdecree reads: “Armed forces shall apply certificates via their respective offices or departments where they were working. These applications will later be forwarded to the provincial and municipal” land title authorities, according to the legal office.
Plaintiff’s counselors met Chum Tong Heng on Friday to discuss the matter but haven’t reached any agreement yet, Cooper said.
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