Five of six Jarai village representatives who lodged a complaint with Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on Tuesday accusing a local businessman of grabbing community land withdrew their complaint yesterday in exchange for a $3,000 “donation” from the defendant, a court official said.
Businessman and self-proclaimed senior CPP provincial member Nou Ly said he drove the five villagers personally to the court yesterday so that they could withdraw their complaint against him.
A meeting will be convened today in O’Yadaw district’s Som Trak Chas village where the $3,000 will be handed over for the “community to develop their village,” Mr Ly said.
“The five listened to their elders and their commune authorities, which is why they are now well informed that I am not a land grabber,” My Ly said. “I am a legal land owner. I am not afraid of those few people who just defame my reputation.”
Six Som Trak Chas villagers, representing a total of 89 families, lodged a complaint with the court alleging that Mr Ly had grabbed 200 hectares of communal land and had already cleared 46 hectares in preparation for establishing a rubber plantation.
Thol Thoek, the only one of the six complainants who did not agree to withdraw his complaint, claimed yesterday that his five colleagues were scared of repercussions following threats by Mr Ly to sue the villagers for defamation, and pressure from a commune official.
“The five dropped the complaint. But it doesn’t mean the villagers will stop suing,” Mr Thoek said.
Provincial court clerk Prak Soeurn confirmed that the complaint against Mr Ly had been withdrawn, though the possibility of continuing with the lawsuit was possible if the villagers found other representatives.
Chhay Thy, provincial investigator for local rights group Adhoc, said an investigation is being conducted into the possible intimidation of the complaints. Mr Thy added that the 89 families claim they never sold any land to Mr Ly or anyone else.
Mr Ly reiterated his claim to the disputed land yesterday, and refuted any suggestion that the villagers felt intimidated.
“I purchased the land to plant a rubber plantation in their community, which is why I never intimidated them. I want them to go along with me or work in my plantation in the future,” he said.