Justice Minister Seeks Briefing Over Years-Old Land Dispute

The justice minister on Wednesday wrote to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court requesting that the judge in charge of a case surrounding a long-running land dispute report to the ministry, following intervention from the National Assembly’s human rights commission.

Ly Sreang Kheng and his family have been battling real estate tycoon Khun Sear and his eponymous company for five years over a plot of land in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district.

The court charged Mr. Kheng and his daughter, Ly Seav Minh, with violence against a property owner over a scuffle with the company’s guards in 2013. Ms. Seav Minh has been in jail since November with repeated trial delays.

In January, CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, chairman of the National Assembly’s human rights commission, wrote to the Justice Ministry requesting that Ms. Seav Minh be released and asking the ministry to review the case.

The commission’s concerns spurred Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to write a letter on Wednesday to municipal court director Taing Sunlay asking him to instruct the presiding judge in the case to brief the ministry.

“Please, director, assign the judge in charge of solving this case to make a report to the ministry to be a foundation to respond to the Commission of Human Rights, Complaints, and Investigations,” the letter says.

Neither Mr. Vong Vathana nor Judge Sunlay could be reached for comment.

Mr. Chhay Eang said Thursday that he believed Ms. Seav Minh should never have been jailed.

“If both of them are disputing over a piece of land, then let them negotiate. This is a land dispute, but one side was arrested, and that is a violation of human rights.”

The family’s lawyer, Chuong Choungy, said after the most recent trial delay on March 25 that his clients would likely accept compensation from Mr. Sear and abandon their land in order to free Ms. Seav Minh.

On Thursday, Mr. Choungy indicated that intervention by the Justice Ministry could change their stance.

“My clients will change their mind if their daughter is freed by intervention from the Justice Ministry,” he said.

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