Six Charged Over Alleged Murder of Rubber Plantation Owner

Six people were charged Thursday with the murder of a rubber plantation owner with whom they had disputing claims to land in Ratanakkiri province, local police officials said.

Sieng Ly, 50, was attacked from behind with a machete and killed on Monday, two days after an argument with the owner of an adjoining private rubber plantation in Andong Meas district.

Accused plantation owner Mao Chrin, 57, and his son Chruy Sambo, 20, were arrested on Tuesday morning along with three of their workers, Chhong Rotha, 18; Moeung Mab, 23; Sor Sokun, 24; and a female relative, Em Sokhorm, 45. The group was charged Thursday with premeditated murder.

Police are searching for another of the arrested man’s sons, Chruy Sambath, 24, who allegedly hacked the victim’s neck with a machete and is still at large.

Provincial deputy police chief Phen Dina said the two families bought 64 hectares of land together many years ago but cut the land in half in 2012 following an argument.

However, Mr. Dina said that division of the land failed to resolve the issue, which escalated when Sieng Ly confronted Mr. Chrin after his workers plowed within the disputed area—about 10 meters by 100 meters—where the two properties meet.

“The murder was committed two days after they had an argument on the border of the land dispute,” Mr. Dina said.

“The suspects admitted their involvement with the case but the suspect who carried out the killing has fled,” he said, adding that police found a bloodied machete in a shelter on Mr. Chrin’s land.

District police chief Sovan Phin said the victim and an employee had gone out on a motorbike at about 5:30 p.m. on Monday to inspect the plantation’s borders.

Mr. Phin added that while the 20-year-old worker was inside a cottage, about 300 meters from the disputed border, he heard Sieng Ly screaming.

“The worker said that he heard the [victim] scream for help, and when he arrived at the scene he found him dead,” he said.

Mr. Phin said the worker claimed to have seen Mr. Chrin run back to his property in the wake of the attack. The victim’s wife filed a complaint the following day.

“The suspect hacked at the back of the victim’s neck with a machete. He died at the scene,” Mr. Phin said.

The court official in charge of the case could not be reached. However, Mr. Dina said the six have been charged with premeditated murder and are being held in pre-trial detention at the provincial prison.

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