The community of Preah Vihear shall rally at the provincial court as four of it’s members are summoned in for questioning. The community hopes to offer encouragement and to demonstrate that the case and land conflict was not limited to four people.
Tep Toem a Kui community advisor in Prame commune stated that she did not understand why the case had come up for review, as it had been quiet for years. The four villages were ordered to appear before the Preah Vihear provincial court on November 14th. Two bulldozers impounded by the community in December 2014 were given back to the company in 2017 by the authorities. Tep Toem She emphasized however that the authorities had not found a solution to the land conflict, instead filing the complaint against the community.
“This case does not involve with only a few people; it involves a community as a whole. So, on 14 November, we are going to rally together to help them. We don’t come to oppose, but we just accompany them, not just let them go alone; we must support them.” said Tem Toem.
Chean Sros investigating judge of the Preah Vihear provincial court has issued an order to four community members namely Phun Rom, Norm Thol, Tho Phet and Sray Sokhy to answer at the court concerning a charge of “arrest, detention and unlawful confinement” committed in Bos Thom village, Prame commune December 29, 2014. The warrant was issued in September, but the community only received this on November 5, 2018.
Beside the 4 villagers, there are also 2 staff of Ponlok Khmer organization in Preah Vihear are being ordered to show up in such a case.
Chean Sros said there was actually a summons of community members and NGO staff to be questioned at the court on 14 November, but he refused to clarify the procedure, confirming that it was a secret process.
Community Network Coordinator of PKH in Preah Vihear province Poek Sophorn said his colleagues and he would not appear at the court as ordered. Mr Poek Sphorn added that he did not accept that order because it contains incorrect information regarding his background, one of his colleague had also not received the order.
He continued it was a bias procedure as the community had lodged a formal complaint against the Lan Feng company, and its tractor-drivers concerning the clearance of the communities forested land. However, this case was left unresolved. Instead, the local government pressed forwards with the complaint of the company opposing the community and NGO staff.
He said “We see the judicial system in our country as very biased. I request that the court be independent and to treat equally, and act upon the complaints of both sides moving towards real justice for the victims.”
In 2014, the villagers in 3 villages in Prame commune who are mostly Kui indigenous people conducted protest and stopped the Lan Feng company from clearing approximately 6,000 hectares of land, including the collective forested land and a burial forest.
The community protesters confiscated 2 tractors of the company in December 2014 to seek the solution. Following the commune election in 2017, those tractors were handed back to the company.
Lan Feng company is a subsidiary of 4 other companies under the name of Heng Fu which received a license of ELCs of over 42000 hectares from the government in 2011 to plant sugarcane and rubber trees.