Official Pressure on Villagers Mounts in Keat Kolney Case

A CPP district governor in Rata­nakkiri province said yesterday that he has also urged ethnic mi­nority villagers to settle their long-standing legal battle with Finance Minister Keat Chhon’s sister Keat Kolney.

The recommendations follow those of Pate commune chief Sev Nhang, who on Monday urged villagers to accept cash payments or gifts of a school or rubber trees from Ms Kolney to end their lawsuit in which they accuse Ms Kolney of swindling them out of 450 hectares in O’Yadaw district’s Pate commune.

Ms Kolney has dismissed the accusations.

O’Yadaw District Governor Dak Sar said yesterday that he had told villagers to take the buyouts offered to them, which have included single payments of $400 per family, gifts of planted rubber trees on individual hectares of land or the construction of a school.

“It has taken years struggling in court. Villagers so far have received no fruitful outcome,” he said, adding that he had met Ms Kolney last month at his office to discuss a possible settlement.

“She promised to buy rubber resin from the villagers because she wants to develop the area with social support and she doesn’t wish to cause trouble or create problems for society,” said Mr Sar, adding that he supported Ms Kolney’s legal claim to the land, which occurred despite a legal ban on the sale of communal land.

“She is the real owner because she bought the land. In particular, the villagers took her money be­fore,” he said.

He denied, however, that there had been any coercion in his dealings with the villagers but said that every family but one has agreed to accept compensation.

But villager representative Ro­man Hil said yesterday that, in fact, only a single family, relatives of Kong Yu village chief Romas Net, has accepted compensation.

“The district and commune authorities are trying to exaggerate the figures to make other villagers confused that only a few are still rejecting the offers,” he said.

 

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