Court Orders Family off Khun Sear’s Land, Lawyer Says

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday sided with real estate tycoon Khun Sear and his eponymous company in a longstanding land dispute with a family living adjacent to an apartment block he obtained in a land swap, the family’s lawyer said Thursday.

Ly Sreang Kheng, 58, the father of the family, has been leading the battle against the company for the past five years and said Thursday that he planned to remain on the land in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district despite the court’s decision.

Sitting inside their home in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kok district on Thursday, Ly Sreang Kheng and his wife Mok Siv Hong sort through images that they claim prove security guards employed by Khun Sear's company beat them. (Alex Consiglio/The Cambodia Daily)
Sitting inside their home in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district on Thursday, Ly Sreang Kheng and his wife Mok Siv Hong sort through images that they claim prove security guards employed by Khun Sear’s company beat them. (Alex Consiglio/The Cambodia Daily)

“I will not move anywhere, even if the court uses bulldozers to destroy my home,” Mr. Sreang Kheng said Thursday, sitting in a ramshackle home built on land he has occupied for more than three decades. “This is my land. This is my home.”

Choung Choungy, Mr. Sreang Kheng’s lawyer, said Thursday that he had not received the court’s written order declaring that the land belongs to Mr. Sear but was prepared to appeal the decision.

“We cannot accept this verdict and we will appeal soon,” he said, adding that Presiding Judge Keo Mony verbally informed him at the court on Wednesday that he had 30 days to file an appeal before the land was legally recognized as Mr. Sear’s.

Judge Mony could not be reached Thursday.

Mr. Sear also could not be reached, and his lawyer Chun Socheat declined to discuss the case.

Mr. Sreang Kheng’s home sits adjacent to a 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. Mr. Sreang Kheng claims that Mr. Sear “cheated” by claiming land around the building, including the small plot where his house sits, that the municipal land management department demarcated for the tycoon in 2013.

Cambodia’s Land Law states that people who have occupied undisputed land for more than five years prior to 2001 have the legal right to a binding property title, which Mr. Sreang Kheng has been unable to obtain.

Sifting through hundreds of documents Thursday, Mr. Sreang Kheng maintained that the land belonged to him. He claims to have resided here since aiding Vietnamese soldiers who lived there after overthrowing the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

“The company tried to use violence to get me to leave, and that didn’t work,” he said, pointing to photographs of bloody injuries to his head which he claims were inflicted by hired thugs. “Now they are using the courts to do their dirty work.”

In the past few years, Mr. Sreang Kheng claims, security guards for the company have waged a vicious campaign of intimidation against his family. He claims the company has sent men to set fire to his home, throw cobra snakes into it, beat his family and watch over them 24 hours a day.

Mr. Sreang Kheng and his daughter were jailed following a clash with the guards in November on charges of using violence against a property owner under the Land Law. He was released on bail in December, but his 23-year-old daughter remains in jail.

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