Land Dispute Families, District Official Meet to End Intimidation

Three families involved in a land dispute with a private company met with the deputy Tuol Kok district governor in Phnom Penh on Tuesday in an attempt to end what the families say is an ongoing campaign of intimidation by businessman Khun Sear to force them from their homes.

The two-hour meeting ended at 4 p.m., but deputy district governor Them Sam An said that the issue remains unresolved and that both the families and Mr. Sear will have to make concessions.

“We are trying to facilitate and cooperate with the families and the company to find a solution, but they still hold the same stance as before,” he said. “If they soften their stance, the problem will be solved.”

The meeting comes after the families filed a complaint with the district and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month, ac­cusing employees of the Khun Sear Import Export Company of attempted murder after a bag of poisonous cobra snakes was thrown through the window of one of the families’ homes in Boeng Kak I commune.

The snakes were just the latest in a series of attacks on the family that they say have been committed by the company, which has offered $15,000 to each of the families to vacate the property it acquired in a swap deal with the government last month, but the families say the offer is to low.

Speaking by telephone Tuesday, Mr. Sear said that the families’ refusal to move is preventing his company from developing the land to build condominiums, which is hurting his business.

“We have tried our best to negotiate with them because they are poor, but they refuse to ac­cept our offer of $15,000 and are demanding $30,000 each, which is too high a figure,” he said, adding that neither he nor his employees had thrown snakes into the property.

“We did not throw snakes like they allege, but I ask—how did they know so quickly there were snakes in their home and how did they catch them so easily?”

Following the meeting, 21-year-old Ly Siv Ming, whose 70-year-old father, Ly Seang Heng, was the alleged victim of several violent attacks, said that neither her family nor her neighbors would accept Mr. Sear’s offer.

“It is not near the standard market price, so we could not buy a new home in the area with this little money, and we do not want to move,” she said.

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