R’kiri court summons officials over land sale

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court has summoned a deputy commune chief and his clerk for questioning over a 2008 complaint accusing them of illegally selling state land in Lumphat district, court director Lu Sou Sambath said yesterday.

Nam Huot, deputy chief of Batang commune, and his clerk, Thorng Kimchhun, have been summoned for questioning over allegations that the pair sold 20 hectares of state land, Mr Sambath said, adding that the two-year-old complaint was filed by the provincial environment department.

Mr Sambath declined to provide the date of the pair’s scheduled appearance or supply any more details on the complaint, referring further questions to Judge Loch Lao. Judge Lao said he was unaware of the summons.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said about a dozen families in Ul village “were encouraged by the pair-Mr Huot and Mr Kimchhun-to sell off around 20 hectares of state land to businesspeople in 2008.”

Some nine families who sold land and were listed in a land sale document recently paid about $2,700 to Mr Huot and Mr Kimchhun to resolve the complaint, according to Mr Bonnar. Rights workers are journeying to the remote Ul village to investigate, he added.

“The field trip investigation is under progress because our organization wants to discover whether the cash was collected to use for bribing the court to end the case or to compromise with environment officials,” Mr Bonnar said.

Mr Kimchhun denied yesterday that he was involved in any land sale, and declined to comment further.

“I don’t know anything about the court’s summons,” Mr Kimchhun said. “The land was sold by villagers, not me.”

Mr Huot could not be reached for comment, and contact information was unavailable for members of the provincial environment department.

Separately, the provincial court questioned four ethnic Tampuon villagers on Sept 10 over an ongoing Batang commune dispute with the firm DM Group. The villagers have been accused of trespassing and destroying company property.


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