Two Villagers Summoned in Preah Sihanouk Land Dispute

Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court has summoned two men involved in a land dispute with Mong Reth­thy Group over allegations that the men forged thumbprints from 42 families reportedly affected by a land clearing effort by the company, the company and villagers said yesterday.

A complaint filed by Mong Reth­thy Group accuses two men, Meas Si and Mok Sophal, of forging thumbprints in their complaint to authorities that demands the company stop clearing land for a palm oil plantation. The two men claim to represent 42 families in Kompong Seila district’s Stung Chhay commune, where the Mong Reththy Group began clearing land in early January. So far, 100 hectares of 300 hectares of disputed land have been cleared, the men say.

The two now must appear in court Feb 10.

Mr Si dismissed the allegations as an attempt to destroy the re­solve of affected villagers and their attempts to seek justice.

“The company has tried to create problems to use against us, because we are representatives of the villagers,” he said. “They want to abuse us in order to discourage the villagers from protesting.”

He added that he has land documents dating back to 2000 that establish their rights to the land.

Tann Meng Sroy, the lawyer rep­­resenting CPP Senator Mong Reththy, denied violating any land rights and said he has evidence to disprove the two men’s claims.

“We do have the evidence to file the complaint on the two repre­sentatives,” he said.

Mom Sam Oeurn, the first de­pu­ty Stung Chhay commune chief, said the 42 families are not among the original villagers who began living in the area in 2000, but rather more recent residents who built homes in 2005 or 2006 without official documents.

“We have found that the representatives actually faked the thumbprints,” he said.

Nap Somaly, the provincial in­vestigator for the rights group Licadho, said the complaint is having a chilling affect on the villagers, and that one family has already accepted a deal rather that pursue the complaint.

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