Two Summoned in R’kiri Land Dispute With Powerful DM Group

Two ethnic Tampoun men jailed for about half a year beginning in 2008 over a long-running land dispute with the well-connected land concession firm DM Group have been summoned to appear next week at the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court over the same dispute, officials said yesterday.

Lumphat district police chief Souy Thay said yesterday that the court has asked the two men to appear Monday over the Batang commune land dispute.

“They were asked to appear at the court on June 21,” he said.

Batang Commune Police Chief Kith Chem confirmed the pair had been summoned, though he said he did not know why.

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court Judge Chey Mealea said she did not re­member the case, while Court Di­rector Lou Sou Sambath could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The land dispute’s history in the courtroom dates at least back to 2005, when villagers filed a complaint accusing the DM Group of seizing 260 hectares of their indigenous lands. Villagers filed a similar complaint in 2009.

The two men summoned yesterday—Yang Thang and Sven Vev—were charged and then arrested in December 2008 following accusations of trespassing and destroying rubber tree saplings belonging to the DM Group, only to be released on bail the next year. Eight other men were also charged over the same accusations.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the recent court summons may be a renewed act of intimidation against the community.

“I think that this is intimidation aimed at the villagers,” he said. “We are watching this case very closely.”

Mr Thang, one of the two summoned men, said yesterday that he was not afraid of the court.

“I will keep protesting because we have rights,” he said. “I am not afraid at all.”

According to Mr Bonnar, more than 600 families from ethnic minority communities have been affected by illegal land grabbing in Ratana­kkiri.

Some 300 ethnic minority villagers are expected to take part in a public forum in the provincial capital, Banlung, today to air their grievances, he added.

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