Keat Kolney Files Complaint Against 10 Lawyers

Keat Kolney, the wife of Ministry of Land Management Secretary of State Chhan Saphan, has filed a complaint with the Cambodian Bar Association against 10 legal aid lawyers who are representing Rat­anakkiri villagers involved in a long-running land dispute with her.

In a June 19 letter to bar association President Ky Tech, Keat Kol­ney accused seven lawyers from the Community Legal Education Center and three from Legal Aid of Cam­bo­dia of inciting villagers and asked the bar to “take legal measures to investigate the case.”

“Their activities seem to be politically motivated by advice from foreigners which affects the reputation of the government leadership, my husband, and my brother, and also affects national development,” she wrote.

Keat Kolney’s brother is Finance Minister Keat Chhon.

Twelve Jarai ethnic minority villagers filed lawsuits in Ratanakkiri Provincial Court in January claiming they were fooled and coerced out of some 450 hectares of O’Yadaw district land to make room for a rubber plantation owned by Keat Kolney.

In letters dated June 22, the bar association asked the 10 lawyers to respond “promptly and without fail” to Keat Kolney’s complaint in writing.

CLEC lawyer Chhith Vinea, one of the lawyers named in Keat Kol­ney’s complaint, said they were weighing their options.

“We are deciding how to respond. For us, it’s no problem. Everything we do in this case is according to the law,” he said

LAC lawyer Dun Vibol, also nam­ed, said he and his colleagues were simply doing their jobs. “We defend in accordance with the law,” he said.

Bar Association Deputy Secretary General Nou Tharith, who signed the letters sent by the bar to the lawyers, said sanctions against those named, which could include a warning, a two year suspension, or disbarment, was still a long way off.

After the bar receives the written responses from the lawyers, Nou Tharith said, “we will invite all sides and try to find a compromise to re­solve the issue.”

Keat Kolney’s lawyer, Chhe Vibol, could not be reached for comment June 22.

At a conference be­tween foreign aid donors and the government June 19-20, a Canadian delegation delivered an address on behalf of all donors in which they criticized the government for failing to act on the question of indigenous people’s land rights.

“Not a single indigenous group has been issued with title in the six years since the adoption of the land law,” Michael Brownell, Mainland Southeast Asia Director for the Canadian International Develop­ment Agency, told the donor conference.

Speaking after the conference on June 20, Finance Minister Keat Chhon told reporters that donor meeting participants had not discussed his sister’s high profile case at the aid pledging talks.

“We talked about the development agenda,” Keat Chhon said.

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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