Thais Ignore Road Dispute Court Hearing

Thai embassy officials on Monday again failed to appear in court to solve a dispute with villagers over the rights to an access road next to the new embassy off Norodom Boul­evard.

For the second time in two weeks, the embassy ignored a summons from Phnom Penh Mun­icipal Court, leaving villagers who filed the May complaint waiting in the court for two hours.

“Why can’t the Thai Embassy cooperate with us to solve the problem?” asked a representative of the 180 families in Village 10. The embassy’s top official said diplomats and embassies are protected from such legal action.

“We have diplomatic immunity. We don’t need to go to the court,” Thai Ambassador Asiphol Chabchigrchaidol said Monday, declining to elaborate. The continued controversy comes on the eve of a three-day visit by Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai.

Investigating Judge Kong Se said the court would proceed with the case.

“They didn’t respect our summons,” Kong Se said. “That’s their right. But we will keep proceeding with the case without them.”

The case involves a 100-meter road the families have used for years to get to the main road, Norodom Boulevard. The emb­assy and the municipality claim the road is part of embassy property, and it was closed down to finish construction.

Police earlier this month closed the road and let men dressed in civilian clothes destroy two houses, which officials said infringe on the Thai embassy property. The road is now being dug up for the installation of sewage pipes and its entrance is closed off by a wall. Chamkar Mon District Chief Chey Salong reiterated Monday the issue was solved when the Ministry of Interior paid $7,250 of compensation to the two house owners after the destruction.

But the problem is not over for the villagers who lost access to the main road. Those villagers on Monday filed a new complaint against Chey Salong, claiming the district chief is responsible for the loss of access to the road.

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