Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen for intervention in a land dispute between a land concession investor and ethnic minority villagers in Ratanakkiri province, party officials and human rights workers said Monday.
Two villagers have been detained in Ratanakkiri provincial prison since being questioned at court on Jan 5 over alleged trespassing on land in O’Chum district claimed by concession holder Khit Sok Khay.
Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, also a representative to the recently formed National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, said Sam Rainsy sent a letter about the dispute to Hun Sen on Thursday. “Sam Rainsy also spoke with Samdech Hun Sen by phone on Friday to discuss ways to solve the matter,” he said.
Sam Rainsy could not be reached for comment. Pen Bonnar, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said he brought the O’Chum case to the attention of the opposition party and that both detainees required medical care. Legal Aid of Cambodia lawyer Ny Chandy said that the two men, his clients, had finally been allowed a brief visit to the provincial hospital on Thursday morning.
Ratanakkiri prison Director Ngin Nel confirmed the prisoners’ needs for further medical care but said he could not release them because their trespassing charge is before the Appeals Court.
Eng Chhay Eang said that he also plans to conduct an investigation into a land dispute between Keat Kolney, wife of Ministry of Land Management Secretary of State Chhan Saphan, and ethnic minority villagers in Ratanakkiri’s O’Yadaw district.
Adhoc and a legal rights NGO have alleged that Keat Kolney, who is also Finance Minister Keat Chhon’s sister, purchased land illegally from the minority villagers.
Keat Kolney’s representative, Ith Sam Ath, declined comment Monday.