Land Dispute Villager Questioned for Incitement

A villager in Kompong Chhnang province said police questioned him Thursday over allegations he had “incited” his neighbors to resist authorities’ efforts to settle a long-running land dispute with the wife of Mines Minister Suy Sem.

Reach Seima, who serves as a representative for 17 families in Kompong Tralach district who have not yet agreed to accept compensation from businesswoman Chea Kheng, said police accused him of incitement for holding a meeting at his house on Sunday to discuss the dispute.

Mr. Seima said he was formally questioned at the provincial police station Thursday by provincial deputy police chief Ry Virak.

“He asked me why I incited villagers, and I replied, ‘I didn’t incite villagers. I just had an assembly of villagers to discuss the resolution of the land dispute and which way we should go,’” Mr. Seima said.

“It is incorrect to accuse me of incitement, because I didn’t incite villagers against public officials or create a secessionist [group], we just assembled to find a way out of the dispute with the company,” he added.

Mr. Virak declined to comment, while provincial police chief Ath Khem could not be reached.

Sam Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he and around 60 villagers had gathered outside the police station to show support for Mr. Seima during the questioning, which he said was an attempt by police to intimidate the holdout families.

The villagers in Ta Ches commune’s Lor Peang village have been embroiled in a dispute since 2007 with Ms. Kheng’s development company, KDC International, which they accuse of grabbing 145 hectares of their land. Thirty-five families finally accepted Ms. Kheng’s offer of compensation this year, while another 17 are holding out for a better offer.

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