Ethnic minority villagers in Ratanakkiri province have brought another lawsuit against Finance Minister Keat Chhon’s sister Keat Kolney, asking the provincial court to take action after her firm ignored a court order to cease clearing disputed land, a lawyer said Sunday.
Judge Thao Sarorn in October ordered Keat Kolney’s company to halt clearances of disputed land lining a road in O’Yadaw district’s Pate commune. However, her lawyer, Chhe Vibol, said at the time that the order had not been properly served, and was therefore disregarded.
The land clearances continued, and locals said it destroyed farmland and ancestral burial grounds.
Sek Sovanna, a lawyer from the Community Legal Education Center, said the villagers want the court to apply the law as destruction of public property, which the company carried out, carries prison terms of up to six years.
“The villagers just want to demand the court take legal action against the wrongdoing of the company,” she said. “We are trying our best to obtain legal process although it’s…hard,” she said.
“Keat Kolney is very high and villagers are on a much lower level so she has some influence in slowing the process,” she added.
Chhe Vibol said Sunday he was unaware of the new complaint against Keat Kolney but that the clearance, which ended in November, did no damage.
“It did not affect the community crops or graves. It’s just about three to 10 meters around the rubber plantation,” he said.
Judge Thao Sarorn also said Sunday that Keat Kolney had done nothing wrong—the injunction was to prevent new clearances, not land that had been cleared in the past, he said.
Kong Yu villagers in January 2007 sued Keat Kolney, claiming that in 2004 she fooled them out of 450 hectares of land, where she has now planted rubber trees. She has denied the allegations.