A group of 60 Jarai ethnic minority villagers in a six-year land dispute in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district surrounded the Pate commune office yesterday as nine villagers and a village chief were being questioned, villagers and the commune chief said.
The questioned group was asked to appear after the village chief accused villagers of attacking him with wooden sticks on Sept 14 over a land dispute with Keat Kolney, the sister of Finance Minister Keat Chhon, according to commune chief Sev Nhang.
Villagers filed suit in 2007 accusing Ms Kolney of defrauding them out of communally owned land, which cannot be sold.
“I summoned nine villagers along with the accuser village chief for face-to-face questioning, but all around us 60 villagers gathered,” Mr Nhang said.
He added that the group at the commune office went home peacefully after the questioning, during which, he said, he found no evidence of the nine villagers’ guilt.
Sev Thvel, deputy chief of Kong Yu village and one of those questioned, said four complaints had been made against villagers by village chief Romas Net since 2008, including defamation, disinformation and injury.
But Mr Thvel said the village chief “is a dangerous person who recently signed a document selling five hectares of disputed land” to an employee of Ms Kolney.
“This is why our villagers and myself suggested that the commune chief fire the village chief for his weakness in leading the village,” said Mr Thvel.
Mr Nhang said villagers should sign a report documenting the village chief’s misconduct, which he could then send for consideration to his superiors.
The village chief, Mr Net, could not be reached for comment yesterday, and contact information was unavailable for Ms Kolney.