Judge Awards Plantation to Singaporean

A Supreme Court judge has af­firmed a lower court decision award­ing temporary ownership of a disputed Kompong Speu pro­vince rubber plantation to a Singa­porean investor.

In a May 20 verdict, Judge Khim Ponn ruled in favor of Chan Yean Fock, who has been in a yearlong battle with an estranged business partner, Uk Khun, over control of the $4 million plantation, Chan Yean Fock’s at­torney, Puth Theavy, said Tues­day.

The ruling gives Chan Yean Fock control of the plantation un­til authorities make a final decision on the ongoing lawsuit, Puth Theavy said.

Court officials say they have to examine the plantation first hand before they can make a determ­ina­tion. A trip had been scheduled for Wednesday, but officials postponed it until Friday, Puth Theavy said.

In January, Appeals Court Chief Judge Thuo Mony refused to rule on the case, saying it was still up to provincial authorities. But the judge did reject a 1998 letter from the Council of Ministers identifying Uk Khun as the company’s owner.

Chan Yean Fock alleges Uk Khun took advantage of the cha­os following the 1997 factional fighting to alter company paperwork and seize control of the plan­tation. The company received its op­erating license in 1993. As ma­jority shareholder, Chan Yean Fock claims he is the rightful owner of the $4 million plantation.

Uk Khun has argued the company belongs to him because he created the business and went through the trouble of getting the land. Chan Yean Fock did not in­vest in the company until later on, Uk Khun has said.

Ever since the 1997 factional fight­ing, foreign investment in Cambodia has dropped.

Rubber is Cambodia’s fourth-largest in­dustry, behind tourism, garment manufacturing and rice, according to government statistics.

Land disputes, arising from three decades of civil war and on­going official corruption, continue to plague Cambodia’s development, activists and observers say.

Under pressure from donors, the National Assembly last year passed a land reform law, but its impact has yet to be felt, some land activists claim.

 

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