Families in Land Dispute With City Detained for Questioning

Three men locked in a land dispute with Phnom Penh authorities were questioned both by the police and the municipal court Wednesday after they were accused of destroying property on land the government has swapped with a private firm.

Ly Bun Heang, said that he, his father Ly Seang Heng, and their neighbor Hing Chan were summoned by the national penal police for questioning over the dispute at the Interior Ministry.

After answering questions there, police then showed the three men another summons for further questioning at the municipal court. They were released by the court shortly before 6 p.m.

The men are from three families who share a Tuol Kok district building with local commune council and CPP offices and who the government wants to buy out after it swapped the property with a private firm.

In April, the families stopped security guards from the firm, Khun Sear Import Export Company, who were accompanied by some 50 military police, from erecting a government-approved fence around the land.

Mr. Heng said authorities on Wednesday accused them of damaging property when they stopped the building of the fence, but laid no charges.

“My father and I were told by police that they accused us of damaging property. But it is not true; I did nothing wrong,” Mr. Heang said.

Lieutenant General Mok Chito, who heads the national judicial police department, confirmed that the three were summonsed and released but declined to comment further.

Seang Sok, the deputy court prosecutor who questioned the three men, could not be reached.

Mr. Heng’s sister, Ly Siv Ming, said the families had moved into the building in 1979 and the CPP and commune council arrived in the 1980s.

In April, Boeng Kak I commune chief Rith Darith claimed that the entire property belonged to City Hall, and that because it was old and small, and because government policy now requires that commune offices and political party offices be on separate premises, the municipal government decided to sell the building to a private company. He added that four other families had accepted compensation and moved out earlier that month, but the three remaining families will not leave their homes without more compensation.

Ms. Siv Ming said her family was offered $15,000 to move out but wanted $300,000.

Since the families stopped the company from erecting a fence around the property, she said an unknown group of people had been banging on their walls and throwing rocks at their shutters on an almost nightly basis.

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