Residents on Koh Pich, the disputed island opposite the NagaCorp Casino, have sacked one of their lawyers—who also works as a senior adviser to the government—from representing them in their legal wrangling with the Phnom Penh Municipality, residents said Sunday.
Residents said they made the decision because Uk Phourik, who is also president of the Khmer Democratic Party, has too many other jobs, and several accused him of representing them inadequately.
“We stopped accepting him because he is too old and is always too busy to do the work for us,” said Nop Srieng, who claims to own land on the island.
Nop Srieng added that residents have presented Uk Phourik with a letter informing him of their decision, which he has accepted.
Uk Phourik, 60, said he received the notice about 10 days ago, adding that he has completed his service to the residents.
He said he had acted in their best interests while representing them, adding that they needed to take a more conciliatory approach in their dispute with the municipality.
“I am close to the government but I also love the villagers,” he said. “We can’t just attack the government…. We need to facilitate.”
Uk Phourik was originally hired because he had a friend whose wife, Bou Sivon, claims to own land on the island. He joined the Community Legal Education Center’s Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project lawyers in representing 20 of the 27 families left on the island.
Chum Sam Oeun, who also claims to own land on the island, criticized Uk Phourik for failing to delay the Phnom Penh Municipal Court order of Nov 3 for all the families living on the island to be evicted.
Residents said Friday that a private firm has offered them sums nearly double of what they were offered by the municipality for the land they occupy.
A CLEC lawyer said Sunday that although everyone is saying the case has been settled, none of the center’s clients have money in their hands and some issues remain unsolved.
(Additional reporting by Samantha Melamed)