A special committee set up in March to settle a long-running land dispute between 52 families in Kompong Chhnang province and the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem has finished its work, leaving 17 families without a deal.
Deputy provincial governor Dork Sothea, who chaired the committee, said the group wrapped up the negotiations last week, having reached pay-out deals for 35 families worth between $1,250 and $1,500 each, already paid by KDC International, the private development firm owned by Mr. Sem’s wife, Chea Kheng.
Ms. Sothea said the tens of thousands of dollars the rest of the families were demanding was too much and that they would now have to settle their disputes with Ms. Kheng in court—on their own.
“I will send a report to the governor and the court some time next week informing them that we reached a solution with only 35 families who will accept mon-ey from the company,” she said. “The other 17 families will need to fight in court by themselves because they demanded too much money.
“The company claims it does not have the ability to pay them $20,000 to $30,000,” she added. “So I will tell the court to process their complaints.”
Neither Ms. Kheng nor her company’s lawyer, Phat Pauv Seang, could be reached. A representative for Ms. Kheng, Thai Hy, declined to comment.
Reach Seima, one of the 17 who refused to strike a deal with KDC, has also been accused of attempted murder and property damage over an incident last May during which villagers burned down a shed the company had built on the disputed land and allegedly chased down a group of visiting land management officials.
He said the provincial court summoned three fellow villagers for questioning on May 26 and suspected that the move was intended as retaliation for his not accepting KDC’s offer.
“It is new pressure on me for my repeated refusal to accept the little money from the company,” he said. “So the company has started to use the court system to intimidate us.”
Duch Sinuon, one of the summoned men, said Mr. Seima was innocent of the allegations, adding that more than 40 villagers would go to the court on the day of the questioning to protest.
naren@cambodiadaily.com
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