Villager in Land Row Denied Character Statement by Police

A villager involved in a long-running land dispute in Kompong Chhnang province with the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem has accused his commune police chief of discrimination after he was refused a character statement he needed to apply for a garment factory job.

Reach Seima, the villager, said that he and two other villagers had paid $3 to Ta Ches commune police chief Chuop Chanthoeun on Sunday to prepare character statements for the three to apply for jobs at a local garment factory.

“The commune police chief first issued and handed the character statements to the three of us,” Mr. Seima said Monday.

The villager, who has been part of a land dispute with Chea Kheng, the wife of Mr. Sem, since 2007, said that the commune police chief then said that the statements had been incorrectly filled in and that he needed them handed back.

“The police chief then returned two of the character statements while mine was held back and never reissued,” Mr. Seima said.

“It is serious discrimination because the police are working in favor of the company locked in a land dispute with me and the other villagers,” Mr. Seima said.

Mr. Chanthoeun, the commune police chief, confirmed that he had not reissued a character statement to Mr. Seima because of outstanding charges against him of attempted murder and property damage.

Mr. Seima is accused of being part of a group of villagers who last May burned down a shed owned by Ms. Kheng’s agro-industry firm—KDC International—on the disputed plot of land.

“In general, we have to state that he or she is a good person to show to the recruiter,” Mr. Chanthoeun said. “But Mr. Seima has been sued at the court, so how can I write down on a character statement that he is a good and decent person?”

“It’s not discrimination, but I have to abide by the law as he has not yet been cleared of criminal offenses by the courts.”

The provincial court is investigating the case, and on Monday questioned two other villagers purported to be involved.

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