Villagers in Land Dispute Are Summoned, But Not Questioned

Five Kompong Chhnang villagers locked in a land dispute with a company owned by the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem, who had repeatedly tried—and failed—to file a complaint with their provincial court, were summoned for questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.

However, the villagers said that they were again disappointed, as Judge Kor Vandy failed to question them over the substance of their complaints, which accused Chea Kheng, owner of KDC and wife of Suy Sem, of grabbing the farmland of 52 families in Kompong Tralach district.

“Judge [Kor] Vandy didn’t ask me anything regarding my complaint,” said plaintiff Duch Dara, adding that he was also the only one of the five plaintiffs to be questioned by the judge.

Mr. Dara said Judge Vandy explained that the court was not able to summons company representatives or Ms. Kheng to answer questions over the complaint, as the villagers had provided an old address when they filed it.

“He required us to find the new address and refile the complaint,” Mr. Dara said.

Judge Vandy on Thursday confirmed that the villagers had to provide KDC company’s most recent address in order for the court to summons Ms. Kheng.

Once the plaintiffs had provided the correct address, a new summons would be issued.

Judge Vandy also criticized the fact that several dozen supporters of the villagers had gathered outside the courthouse Thursday.

“It’s a land issue, and I told him [Mr. Dara] that the villagers just needed to find evidence and documents to prove their legal ownership in front of the court… There’s no need to waste time and money to gather supporters to stand outside the court,” he said.

“Then I asked him whether or not he brought along many people to put pressure on me, but he refused [to answer],” Judge Vandy said.

The five plaintiffs are part of 52 families who have been involved in a land dispute with agro-industry firm KDC since 2007.

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