Warning Shots or Not, Municipal Court Hears Orchard Case

The villagers call them warning shots over their heads. The deputy commune chief says he was simply cleaning his AK-47 and discharging it on his own land.

Either way, there was gunfire on Feb 1 when 81 residents of the Dangkao District village of Srok Chek in Cheung Ek commune returned from a day spent pleading with representatives from the National Assembly for the return of three hectares of land they claim has been stolen from them by commune officials.

The villagers filed a criminal lawsuit over the incident, and Monday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court three villager representatives and the accused, Him Horl, were interviewed by court investigators.

The land dispute itself dates back to 1984. The villagers say they were farming the three hectares collectively until commune chief Khatt Sokhon and village chief Sok Som asked them if they could borrow the land to grow plum trees, with the promise that a portion of the revenues would be used to pay for village needs.

According to the villagers, the money never came and the land was never returned. They say land title documents indicate the land has been sold in 1984, 1991 and 1993, all without their knowledge.

“The village has two demands,” said Heang Sroy, one of more than100 residents who came to the court building Monday. “First, we want the land returned. Second, we want to put in jail, following the law, the man who illegally used his gun to threaten someone.”

Him Horl told investigators he was not involved in the land dispute, and had no reason to fire his gun near villagers. He said he pos­sessed documents entitling him to legal use of the weapon, but did not bring them to court.

More witnesses will be sought, and court investigators say their probe could last another four to six months.


Related Stories

Latest News