Provincial Court Hands Over R’kiri Case to Land Ministry Ministry of Land

Following a controversial land dis­pute between ethnic minority vil­la­gers in Ratanakkiri province’s Ba­keo district and rubber company Ly Sok­him Co Ltd, the provincial court yes­terday decided to hand the case to the Ministry of Land Man­age­ment’s Cadastral Admini­stration “because the disputed land is unregistered,” officials said yesterday.

“The case had been tried three times and more than a dozen people involved were questioned,” said Judge Ek Polyphill. “We discovered that neither party has land tit­les to prove ownership.” He ad­ded that as such, the case should be handled by the Land Management Ministry.

Last year, Ly Sokhim filed a complaint to get $10,000 in compensation from the defendants and regain ac­cess to land it claimed to own. The com­pany ac­cused the 14 defendants from Keh Chung commune’s Pa’or village of grabbing more than 100 hec­tares of land the company had bought from villagers in neighboring Leu Han village in 2007.

The decision to transfer the case was based on a 2003 in­ter-ministerial proclamation signed by the minis­tries of justice and land management and the Cadastral Administra­tion regarding the court’s role re­gard­ing land disputes, Judge Poly­phill said. The proclamation stated that “disputes over unregistered land […] shall be subject to the competence of the Cadastral Admini­stration.”

Long Lun, the defendants’ lawyer, said his clients were satisfied with the case’s transfer, as it was a sign that the court wouldn’t order the villagers to pay any compensation.

He said the case would be handled by the Cadastral Admini­stra­tion in Bakeo district but that it must be forwarded to the provincial or national level if it goes unresolved.

Kea Eav, the lawyer representing Ly Sokhim, said the court’s decision was “unfair,” and that the case should have been transferred when the complaint was lodged, in­stead of going to trial three times. He said the court should “rule that the land belongs to my client […] he has sufficient documentation bearing the local authorities’ signatures to prove that the land purchase was legal.”


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