Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bunong testimony sought in vandalism inquiry

Bunong testimony sought in vandalism inquiry

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The disputed land in Dak Dam commune’s Po Chhop village of Mondulkiri province’s O’Raing district earlier this month. SUPPLIED

Bunong testimony sought in vandalism inquiry

The Mondulkiri Provincial Court Prosecutor’s Office has summoned 12 Bunong indigenous people to testify in a case of alleged violence and destruction of property, which took place on November 17 last year.

According to the summons – issued by deputy prosecutor Seav Ngy Chhean on April 28 – the 12 people in Dak Dam commune’s Po Chhop village of O’Raing district must each testify on different days between May 25 and June 1.

The summons states that they are summoned to clarify about the violence, encroachment, threats and vandalism in response to a complaint filed by a man identified as Nhong Chhay.

Kem Chanrath, a resident of the village, said on May 24 that he and other villagers had been summoned by the court, and would express their opinions that Chhay, the complainant, was the one who had encroached on more than 200ha of land that 102 families depended on.

He alleged that Chhay had erected posts to build a house so the villagers had protested and demanded him to clear out.

He claimed that the villagers did not abuse, shout, threaten to demolish houses or commit vandalism as alleged by Chhay. The villagers simply removed the fence post from the land because it belongs to the people and has been used for a long time, he added.

He accused Chhay of using the power of the judiciary to violate their civil rights and discourage protests over the disputed land.

“Chhay is violating the rights of the people by using the power of the judiciary to intimidate the people so that there will be no protests over the land they depend on,” he said.

Another resident, Mouls Tean – who was summoned by the court on May 24 – claimed that he was just a regular citizen who went to stop people from dismantling the posts on the disputed land, not a participant.

“I told them not to take them down, but to wait for the authorities. If they had given us permission to remove them, then we could do so. But people have accused me and the authorities of trying to steal people’s land and sell it. I won’t say anything else, I will wait for events to be clarified,” he said.

Chhay said on May 24 that more than a dozen villagers had committed vandalism on his property – which he claimed to have owned since 2007 – by demolishing houses, fences and using violence against his workers, to prevent him from developing the land.

“I bought the land from various villagers, some of them my relatives, in 2007. I have documentation and enough signatures to have it recognised by district authorities. Before filing the complaint, I asked the villagers to inspect the documentation, but they said they did not recognise it, prohibited me from developing my land, and destroyed my property,” he said.

Chhay said that he owned 126ha in Pou Chhop village.

District governor Seak Mony said on May 24 that he had called on both sides to attend mediation and resolve the issue peacefully, but that the protesters had not come forward to discuss it or presented their arguments to the authorities.

“In the past, I asked them to discuss the dispute with me, but they have not made an effort to join discussions, so I do not know how to solve the problem,” he said.

The governor said he had seen Chhay’s legal documents, but that recognising them was not in his mandate as they were signed by the previous governor.

Chek Sokhim, an official for rights group ADHOC in the province, said on May 24 that his organisation is investigating the case. He would meet with the people involved and attempt to obtain further information on May 25.

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,

  • Capital-Poipet express rail project making headway

    The preliminary results of a feasibility study to upgrade the Phnom Penh-Poipet railway into Cambodia’s first express railway indicate that the project would cost more than $4 billion and would take around four years to complete. The study was carried out by China Road and