Senior officials, including party leaders, a former governor and the prosecutor in charge of the case, were to receive portions of disputed land in Banteay Meanchey from a development organization, according to documents obtained Monday.
The National Agriculture Development Organization offered to split more than 50 hectares of land between at least 14 officials, including Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhiek Bun Chhay, Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha and Pursat Prosecutor Top Chansereyvuth, according to a NADA internal document dated Nov 25, 2001, provided by Adhoc and confirmed by a local official who asked not to be named.
Two other documents dated Sept 4 and Nov 19, 2003 also promise the land and name as recipients other officials and institutions such as the Defense and Interior ministries. The size of the plot of land is mentioned next to each name. The documents also roughly describe where the plots are located.
“I know there was an issue of an internal dispute within NADA, and they registered me and other high officials, promising to give us the land,” Kem Sokha said by telephone Thursday.
In its dispute, NADA split between a Funcinpec-oriented and a CPP-oriented faction, Kem Sokha said. Each side turned to officials of each party and offered them land to gain their favor, he added. Most of the people cited on the documents are former or current Funcinpec members, he said.
The land is at the center of a decade-long dispute between NADA and villagers in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district.
The case was moved without explanation on order from Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vatana from the Banteay Meanchey court to the Pursat court. The case followed Top Chansereyvuth, who was to receive 2 hectares and was a judge in Banteay Meanchey before becoming Pursat prosecutor.
Last week Top Chanserevuth, who did not answer repeated telephone calls Monday, appealed an order releasing four villagers detained over the land dispute.
Also named in the documents are Nhiek Bun Chhay’s brother, Nhiek Kimchun, for 4 hectares; former Bantey Meanchey governor Orn Sum, for 1 hectare; and O’Chrou District Governor Sar Chomrong, among others.
Kem Sokha said he knew his name was on the list, but added that he had never received land and would have given it to the poor if he had.
Nhiek Bun Chhay was to receive 10 hectares, according to the document.
“I am the honorary president of NADA, and the NADA committee members decided to give me this land along with other officials to provide to the people, but I did not get the land yet,” he said by telephone Thursday.
The land was always meant to be distributed to the poor to build houses and grow crops, he said. He could not explain, however, why the land had to transit via the private property of senior officials.
NADA secretary-general Ouk Sophan, who was slated to receive 4 hectares, insisted the document was only an internal draft and that the plan was never approved, although it bears his name and thumbprint. The plan was rejected by former governor Orn Sum, he added.