A long-running legal battle over ownership of a plot of land in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung City took another turn after the Minister of Justice delayed a Supreme Court order to vacate the land, officials said yesterday.
Last week Ratanakkiri Provincial Court sent more than 30 police and soldiers to evict ten families who were living on a 25-by-65-meter plot of land in Banlung’s Laban Siek commune.
The Supreme Court had ordered the land vacated as it belonged to Kuy Yan, the wife of Suong Piseth, the former director of the provincial department of public works.
Since 2005, Ms Yan has won consecutive court cases over the land against Mr Piseth’s brother Doeurn Chan at the provincial court, Court of Appeal and in June at the Supreme Court.
Mr Chan claimed Mr Piseth had given him the land and said he had sold it to local families many years ago.
On Oct 22 however, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana asked Ratanakkiri Provincial Court to temporarily halt the eviction order.
“The ministry would like the provincial court president and prosecutor to look into the proposal” to delay eviction, the minister wrote in a letter to the court.
The minister had suggested a temporary halt because Mr Piseth had filed a complaint against the Supreme Court ruling and asked for a new hearing as he also claimed ownership of the land in the divorce case with his wife Ms Yan.
Mr Piseth could not be reached for comment yesterday but in an Oct 15 letter to the Justice Ministry he wrote that he was in the process of divorcing his wife and the court’s eviction order “harms my interest in dividing our properties.”
Deputy provincial prosecutor Ros Saram said so far only one family had been evicted. He said the ministry had only suggested a temporary halt to the eviction and it was up to the provincial court to consider this suggestion.
Ros Monin, attorney-at-law and a member of Cambodian Bar Association’s governing council, said that by law the ministry could call for a temporary delay of a court order if there were new developments in a case. In the case between Ms Yan and Mr Chan, a third party had now expressed interest in the land and had called for a new hearing, he explained.
“It is not unusual that the Ministry of Justice suggests to provincial courts to consider” delaying orders, Mr Monin said.