The Koh Kong Provincial Court on Tuesday acquitted a woman of killing a pair of cows belonging to plantation owner Heng Huy, who has been in a yearslong land dispute with local villagers who accuse him of stealing their farms.
Mr. Huy, whose eponymous company has a 779-hectare sugarcane concession in Sre Ambel district, had sued the woman, Pav Nhoeung, 39, for allegedly poisoning two of his cows with pesticide back in 2013, leading to a charge of causing intentional damage.
Ms. Nhoeung’s lawyer, Yin Savath, said the court announced its verdict on Tuesday and found his client not guilty.
“Judge Saing Serei announced the verdict in court and decided to acquit the defendant because there was no inculpatory evidence,” he said. “It is justice for my client.”
The judge, court director and deputy director all declined to comment.
Mr. Huy said he was disappointed with the verdict, insisting that the pesticide allegedly found under Ms. Nhoeung’s house should have been enough to prove her guilt.
“It is injustice, but we don’t know what to do; it’s the court’s decision,” he said. “There was pesticide found underneath her house that killed the two cows.”
Mr. Huy said he had not yet decided whether to appeal.
During Ms. Nhoeung’s trial on June 10, she said she was not in the area on the day of the alleged crime and accused Mr. Huy of trying to use the court system to intimidate villagers so they would stop protesting against his plantation.
Heng Huy Agriculture Group was granted its concession in 2008, but a dispute ensued after the company was accused of encroaching on land outside of its boundaries. Twenty-four families reached a deal with the company to move off the land in 2010, but four of them—including Ms. Nhoeung’s—filed a complaint with the provincial court in 2013 claiming they were coerced into signing the deal.
Mr. Huy has denied encroaching on the villagers’ land.