Four summoned in K speu land dispute

Kompong Speu Provincial Court has summoned four villagers for questioning tomorrow over a land dispute with businessman and CPP senator Ly Yong Phat, bringing the total number of villagers sued by Mr Yong Phat’s company or its representatives to 19, villagers and a rights worker claimed.

However, a company representative denied that Mr Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company was behind the court complaints, which accused the villagers of illegally encroaching on land in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune. Mr Yong Phat and his wife have been granted roughly 8,000-hectare, adjacent concessions for sugar plantations in Omlaing commune.

Villager representative You Thou said yesterday that the four summoned villagers were the legal owners of land granted to villagers from Mr Yong Phat’s concession by provincial authorities in July.

“Villagers will show up in accordance to the summons because we are the legal land owners,” Mr Thou said. “I believe that more villagers will be sued by this sugar company and the firm’s representatives unless we stop demanding our land rights.”

Provincial court prosecutor Khut Sopheang and deputy prosecutor Muth Dara could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Since March, Mr Yong Phat’s firm or its representatives have sued 19 villagers for incitement to arson, property destruction or illegal land encroachment, according to Ouch Leng, land rights monitor for local rights group Adhoc.

“The company has the bad intention to discourage villagers by using the court to bring criminal charges against innocent land owners,” Mr Leng said. He added that the firm had already built a 1.5-meter-high concrete wall around 80 percent of the concession, despite unresolved claims to the land by villagers.

Chheang Kim Sun, a representative for Phnom Penh Sugar Company, said the villagers summoned tomorrow had forged ownership documents, which is why the true land owners had sued them for “illegal land encroachment,” although she said she did not know who had submitted the complaints. She added that Mr Yong Phat’s company had filed complaints alleging property destruction and incitement to arson against at least ten other villagers in the ongoing dispute.

“The company never sues good villagers, especially because the court is an independent institution, and we are a private firm that has no power to order the court to charge or jail villagers,” Ms Kim Sun said.

More than 2,000 hectares of the firm’s concession have already been planted, and a sugar factory is to be built by the end of the month, according to Ms Kim, who said the concrete fence was “for security reasons.”

Separately, Puth Yoeun, a 47-year-old soldier assigned to RCAF’s Region 3, said he had been summoned by the provincial court yesterday for allegedly encroaching on land, but had asked for a delay. He said the plaintiff was Him Dara, not Mr Yong Phat’s firm, but said he suspected the firm was behind the summons.

“I believe this sugar company is behind this complaint because I repeatedly refused to sell my land to his company,” Mr Yoeun said.

Ms Kim Sun denied this accusation, and contact information for Mr Dara was unavailable yesterday.


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