Prey Veng Provincial Court will today question five opposition party activists after local authorities filed a complaint against them over a 2009 land dispute, court officials and an SRP lawmaker said yesterday.
Chea Pouch, SRP lawmaker for Prey Veng province, said that five party activists–including provincial youth movement chief Oun Sam Oeun–were due to appear in court today. Seven other villagers have also been summoned, he said.
“I have not charged them yet and I am just investigating by asking them to respond to the authority’s accusations,” provincial deputy prosecutor Say Nora said by telephone yesterday, adding that the five SRP activists were potential suspects in the case, while the other seven villagers were being treated at witnesses only.
Mr Sam Oeun, 29, said the five were accused of defamation and spreading disinformation by officials in Ba Phnom district’s Sdao Korng commune. He said he had received the summons earlier this month.
“I plan to go to the court…and ask them to delay my case because I’m sick and I don’t have a lawyer yet,” he said.
The complaint stems from a protest staged after authorities planned to widen a 1,300-m stretch of road running through the commune, according to commune chief Hem Hon. Mr Hon claims officials notified the villagers, who voluntarily agreed to each give up 3 meters of land to the new construction, which began in December 2009. The villagers deny they were ever contacted about the road development.
“They cut and cleaned our land without permission from the owners,” said Sao Chhoun, 63, one of those summoned for questioning.
Villagers then formed a protest to stop the land being cleared, Mr Hon claimed.
“We asked them before we took the land for the public road, but then they told the media that authorities took their land,” he said. He added that he lodged the complaint with the court immediately after the protest.
SRP lawmaker Mr Pouch said his party was happy to see public road improvements, as long as they were carried out without harming those living nearby.
“When people have problems with the construction, the authorities should try to solve it by reasonable means,” he said.