Prosecutor Accused of Bias in Land-Dispute Case

The prosecutor of the Pursat Provincial Court is allegedly in­volved in a land-dispute case that was mysteriously moved to his court from the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court last week, according to the complainant in the case and a rights worker.

The case, which involves four villager representatives from Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district who were arrested last year for alleged property destruction during a pro­test, was originally with the Ban­teay Meanchey court but was tran­s­ferred to the Pursat court based on a letter from the minister of justice.

Last week the chief prosecutor of the Banteay Meanchey court, So Vath, said he did not know why the case had been transferred from his court to Pursat.

The men charged in the case were protesting a decade-long land dispute between 170 families and the plaintiff National Dev­elopment Agriculture Association, in which provincial officials are involved.

Ouk Sophan, secretary-general of the National Development Ag­riculture Association, confirmed Thursday that Pursat Prosecutor Top Chansereyvuth, a former judge at the Banteay Meanchey court, is to receive 2 hectares of the land after the dispute is resolved.

“We have some names on the paper of the plan to provide them the land, including the former judge [Top Chansereyvuth],” Ouk Sophan said before declining to comment further on the case.

On Wednesday, the Pursat court discharged itself of the case be­cause the dispute is situated outside its jurisdiction and ordered that the four men—Chhor Touch, Morm Sarun, Chom Chanthan and Chea Sitha—be released on bail.                         However, Pursat Judge In Bo­pha said Thursday by telephone that Top Chansereyvuth immediately appealed the court’s decision to discharge itself and that the accused men remained in custody at Pursat provincial prison.

Top Chansereyvuth on Sunday confirmed that he had sent a letter to the Appeal Court appealing the Pursat court’s decision, but then hung up on a reporter when asked about the 2 hectares he allegedly has reserved in the disputed site.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vath­ana could not be reached for comment.

Soum Chankea, Banteay Mean­chey provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said Thursday that he has documents showing that Top Chansereyvuth has already re­ceived the 2 hectares of disputed land from the National Develop­ment Agriculture Association.

“I have enough documents to verify that Top Chansereyvuth has 2 hectares of land involved in this case,” he said.

 

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