Officials Raid Villager’s Home in KDC Dispute

Police and court officials on Wednesday searched the home of villager Oum Sophy, who has been outspoken opponent of the well-connected KDC company as it has tried to push her and dozens of her neighbors off their land in Kompong Chhnang province.

The raid came after KDC—which is owned by Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem—accused the villagers of using slingshots and homemade weapons on July 17 to attack its workers as they erected a concrete wall on the land.

“Four district police came and searched our house and found nothing,” said Ms. Sophy’s husband, Snguon Nhoeun.

“Then, a court prosecutor came, backed by police and military police and searched my home again, because the company’s workers reported that we hid air guns after attacking them,” he said.

The raid on Ms. Sophy’s house, which is adjacent to the disputed site, comes a day after two villagers, Mang Yav and Seang Heng, were charged with the intentional destruction of property and causing injuries during the July 17 clash.

Ta Ches commune police chief Chuop Chanthoeun confirmed that the house had been searched following the workers’ complaints.

Villagers say they too have been attacked by the workers, many of whom were hired from neighboring villages, and showed cuts, bruises and pieces of rebar to reporters who visited the site of the dispute two weeks ago.

Lawyers from rights group Licadho and the Community Legal Education Center on Wednesday filed motions to the court on behalf of the villagers, claiming that the land they have farmed since 1980 had been illegally grabbed by the company more than a decade ago.

The motion asks the court to call on the company to stop building the wall until ownership of the land has been decided.

The lawyers argued that because an original court complaint filed by the villagers in 2007 has yet to be ruled upon, the company has no right to proceed with erecting a wall to demarcate the disputed land.

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