Deal finally ends Kratie row

1 Sep

By Pech Sotheary, The Phnom Penh Post, 01 September 2014

Kratie villagers march along a road near the prime minister’s house in Phnom Penh last month

Kratie villagers march along a road near the prime minister’s house in Phnom Penh last month during a demonstration over a long-running land dispute. Vireak Mai

Under growing pressure from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the government on Saturday offered official land titles to hundreds of Kratie villagers, putting an end to their long-running dispute with a South Korean agricultural company.

Im Chhun Lim, minister of land management, urban planning and construction, said that following further inspection of the land in Snuol commune and its disputed ownership, his ministry found that Horizon Agriculture Development Company had failed to meet the conditions of its economic land concession by not adequately cultivating the land.

“The company has not complied with the announcement, so the lands have to be seized back,” Chhun Lim said.

He added that 361 land certificates, covering a total of 1,562.75 hectares of land, would be awarded to 324 families in the commune’s Krong and Thpong villages.

He advised residents to collect the certificates from Kratie Provincial Hall on Wednesday, adding that those who could not make this date could collect the certificates from the provincial land management, urban planning and construction department.

The announcement was made at Phnom Penh’s Samaki Rainsey pagoda, where hundreds of the villagers had been staying while seeking intervention. It came less than two weeks after Hun Sen warned officials that he had “no patience” left for inaction on land disputes.

In a strongly worded speech last month, the premier called on officials to stop being “lazy” and instead seek solutions.

Suon Vicheka, a representative of the villagers, welcomed the decision on Saturday, adding that villagers would return to their homes so that they could collect their official titles.

Vicheka added that a further 51 families in a dispute with Horizon Agriculture Development over 66 plots of land would also return home to await a solution, as promised by Chhun Lim.

Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, urged the government to continue to act on disputes.

“It is time for the two parties to create a new government which can end land disputes . . . since land disputes are the root of social problems.”

Monks ‘face defrocking’ after protesters pour in

1 Sep

By May Titthara, The Phnom Penh Post, 01 September 2014

Two monks who invited scores of provincial land-rights protesters into their pagoda in the capital have been threatened with defrocking, the pagoda’s chief monk said yesterday.

Meas Sokhorn alleged that Veng Seng, deputy chief monk in Russey Keo’s Chroy Changva commune, and another official had called him to a meeting to tell him that two monks living at his pagoda, Manh Sokreal and Nob Vanny, would be defrocked.

“The authorities, when the Buddhist [holiday] period ends, they will defrock the two monks,” he said.

In the past two weeks, land protesters have poured into the capital, seeking government intervention in their disputes.

A letter signed by Seng and dated August 17 calls for pagodas across Russey Keo district to tell any people staying there to return to their homes to allow preparations for this month’s Pchum Ben festival to take place, as per Buddhist traditions.

But Sokhorn told the Post that he had no plans to turn anyone away from the pagoda.

“The authorities want the people to leave the pagoda before Pchum Ben. How can I do that? The pagoda is a place that people depend on when they are suffering,” he said. “If I do not allow them to stay, I am not a monk.”

Sokhorn added that he was not acting politically, but in the name of Buddhism.

“My students and I do not participate in politics. They already have politicians, and what I am doing is following the Buddha’s advice,” he said.

Neither Seng nor the two monks could be reached for comment yesterday.

The case is the latest in which action has allegedly been taken against monks for their political activities.

Last month, armed police raided the Wat Neak Vorn pagoda in Tuol Kork district after some of its monks attended an opposition demonstration that descended into violence at Freedom Park, while a week ago more than 100 monks turned out to protest at Sansam Kosal pagoda in Meanchey district after a Khmer Krom monk who took part in recent protests outside the Vietnamese Embassy was called to a meeting with district religious authorities.

CNRP official to skip court

1 Sep

By Meas Sokchea, The Phnom Penh Post, 01 September 2014

Protesters attack a member of the Daun Penh security force with makeshift weapons near Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park

Protesters attack a member of the Daun Penh security force with makeshift weapons near Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park in July after a demonstration turned violent. Vireak Mai

Former parliamentary candidate and opposition information chief Meach Sovannara said yesterday that he would not appear in court today for questioning related to charges stemming from a violent opposition protest in July.

Speaking to the Post from abroad, Sovannara said he was on a mission to South Korea, Singapore and Thailand, and would therefore be unable to attend. What’s more, he added, the court summons was invalid because it listed his name, age and title incorrectly.

“I will not flee. I respect the law, and I will go to clarify [the matter] when the court [summonses me] properly according to the procedure of the law,” Sovannara said. “In other countries, when someone is summonsed with a misspelled name and the wrong age, he will not appear for clarification.”

Sovannara said his lawyer, Chan Chen, would submit to questioning by investigating judge Keo Mony on his behalf.

Mony issued a summons on August 12 ordering Sovannara to answer questions regarding a Cambodia National Rescue Party protest on July 15 during which demonstrators turned on the notoriously violent Daun Penh district security guards, injuring several. A handful of opposition leaders were arrested and charged in the aftermath of the demonstration, a move that the opposition and civil society decried as politically motivated.

Though most of the others arrested are now covered by parliamentary immunity, Sovannara, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Banteay Meanchey, is not.

Chen, Sovannara’s lawyer, said he and his client had planned to appear together but that if Sovannara was unable, he would appear alone on his behalf. He also maintained that his client would not flee the charges, because he was innocent.

“I understand that my client did not do anything wrong; he is an honest citizen,” Chen said. “He [was present at] the incident, but based on the video, he did not do anything illegal. So I [am not] worried that there will be any arrest, and I hope the judge will offer justice for him.”

Investigating judge Mony declined to comment.

Workers in Kampong Chhnang End Protest

1 Sep

By Ben Sokhean, The Cambodia Daily, 01 September 2014

English3

Villagers Hand Out Leaflets in Fight With Sugar Firm

1 Sep

By Mech Dara, The Cambodia Daily, 01 September 2014

English2

KDC protests to go on

1 Sep

By Khouth Sophak Chakrya, The Phnom Penh Post, 01 September 2014

Sngoun Nhoeun is detained by authorities in Kampong Chhnang in August as residents from Lor Peang attempt to march to Phnom Penh

Sngoun Nhoeun is detained by authorities in Kampong Chhnang in August as residents from Lor Peang attempt to march to Phnom Penh to raise concerns over a land dispute with KDC International. Heng Chivoan

One of five villagers arrested in a land dispute with politically connected company KDC International told the Post after their release on Friday that he would keep protesting “until our community obtains a resolution from the government”.

“Now we are preparing to submit the petitions to the relevant state departments and international organisations, such as the European Union and other embassies in Phnom Penh,” Sngoun Nhoeun explained.

He added that he was ordered to sign a contract promising to stop demonstrating against KDC before being released.

Nhoeun and two other villagers, Srun Tha and Kuch Hok, were arrested during a peaceful march to Phnom Penh last month, while another two, Mang Yav and Seang Heng, were arrested over a violent clash in July with KDC construction workers.

The five were released on bail thanks to a personal guarantee from ruling Cambodian People’s Party lawmaker for Kampong Chhnang province Ker Chanmony.

Koh Kong gov to bring petition to Say Sam Al

1 Sep

By Sen David, Thr Phnom Penh Post, 01 September 2014

Koh Kong Governor Bun Leart has promised villagers evicted from their land by Chinese-owned Union Development Group that he will give their petition to Minister of Environment Say Sam Al today.

The villagers are demanding a review of the company’s $3.8 billion concession, which led to the eviction of about 1,000 families.

“I will take your request to submit to the national level,” Leart said following a meeting with petitioners yesterday.

Pum Tour, 45, said the villagers had struggled to make a living in relocation sites since the company took over the land more than five years ago.

“We need our farmland back. We depend entirely on our plantations,” he said.

In Kong Che, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, said the petition was one of many attempts by communities across the country in recent weeks to raise their disputes following a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month in which he blamed local officials for the scale of land rights abuses and forced evictions.

Villagers Protest Against Businesswoman’s Gifts

1 Sep

By Ben Sokhean, The Cambodia Daily, 01 September 2014

English1

Lor Peang Villagers Bailed After CPP Lawmaker’s Intercession

1 Sep

By Kuch Naren, The Cambodia Daily, 30-31 August 2014

English2

Land Dispute Victims Continue to Press Case in Phnom Penh

1 Sep

By Khoun Narim, The Cambodia Daily, 30-31 August 2014

English1

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