Land Representative’s Request To Stop Trial Denied by Judge

One of two women claiming to represent 163 families that won access to a swath of land in Sen Sok district after a prolonged dispute failed Wednesday to have her breach of trust and forgery charges thrown out of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Chea Sarom, who was charged after a rival community representative claimed she had attempted to take 9,982 square meters of land for herself, requested that the trial be stopped due to lack of evidence.

However, Presiding Judge Chhe Vireak ruled that the investigation should continue, adding that the complicated nature of the case meant it could take some time to resolve.

“The court has decided to deny the defendant’s request…. It’s a hard case to make a decision about, so we will take more time to investigate,” Mr. Vireak said. He did not specify when the trial would resume.

A group of 163 families was granted access to the plot by the municipal court in 2007 following a dispute with businesswoman Keo Neam. Ms. Neam challenged the decision but it was upheld by the Appeal Court in 2008 and the Supreme Court in 2011.

In June, however, another woman, Pring Socheat, came forward claiming to represent the true recipients of the land and filed a complaint against Ms. Sarom, alleging that after acting as co-representatives, Ms. Sarom had created a fake list of 163 awardees and was blocking the other families, including Ms. Socheat’s, from accessing the land.

Ms. Sarom responded by making the same accusation against Ms. Socheat at a court hearing in June, and in addition claimed that she was never affiliated with the group her rival represented.

Contacted Wednesday, Ms. Socheat said she hoped the judge would carefully review the documents and convict Ms. Sarom because both of their names were on the original list of awardees.

“I hope after the judge gets the original document listing the real 163 [families], he will see her name and know…she forged a public document,” she said.

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