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Court sentences land protestor to 18 months

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Protestor Heng Sok after he was arrested. Supplied

Koh Kong Provincial Court yesterday sentenced a man locked in a land dispute to 18 months in prison for destruction of property after a complaint was filed by representatives of tycoon Ly Yong Phat.

The court prosecuted Heng Sok, a 48-year-old representative of 50 families locked in a 103-hectare land dispute with Mr Yong Phat’s company, which was granted an Economic Land Concession in the province.

Mr Sok was arrested in February after Mr Yong Phat’s lawyers filed a complaint against him.

Ho In, a rights worker with Lidacho in the province, said that the decision to incarcerate Mr Sok was unfair.

Mr In said that Mr Sok himself has filed multiple complaints to provincial authorities, but action was never taken.

“It’s unfair for people locked in the land dispute because Heng Sok himself had filed complaints with provincial authorities to resolve the dispute,” he said.

“But the dispute is not solved and the company continues to clear the land. So that’s why he marked portions of the disputed land with poles and he even notified local authorities. But the company sued him and had him arrested anyway.”

In December, the company cleared portions of the land, sparking a land dispute with 50 families that continue to protest, rally and file complaints to courts and ministries.

Mr Sok was arrested after taking part in protests and installing poles on the disputed land in Kiri Sakor district.

Tith Ten, Mr Sok’s 61-year-old mother in law, yesterday expressed regret over the court’s decision to jail her son.

“The case was unjust, they were people trying to defend their land and my son was arrested and is now imprisoned,” Ms Ten said.

Pheap Sophea, a judge that presided over the case, could not be reached for comment yesterday, while Touch Sovannara, court administration department head, declined to comment.

Company representative Chan Nakry said in the past that Mr Sok violated the law when he installed land markings on land granted to his client by the government.

“Mr Sok installed poles on company land. We tried to explain to him that what he’s doing is wrong, but he continued his violation of the law,” he said. “We could not accept it.”

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