Hundreds of families waiting to hear the outcome of a land dispute running for more than 20 years gathered in front of the Court of Appeal yesterday, only to have the case delayed yet again.
Nearly 450 families in Phnom Penh’s Steung Meanchey district dispute the ownership of 17 hectares claimed to have been bought by the owners of Beta International Ltd., Ta Vireak Sathya and Ta Ratha Phirum, in 1992.
The lawsuit was originally heard by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which ruled in favour of the company, but when the case reached the Supreme Court it was kicked back to the Court of Appeal for another hearing.
Trea 3 village chief Cheang Hor said the case was quiet for a while, until the Appeal Court summoned 25 citizen representatives and the Samaki Raingsey Pagoda chief to participate in another hearing.
However, the case was suspended yesterday after lawyers from both sides requested the presiding judge contact expert officials to measure and map the land first.
“The court called us to review the case, and asked for the measurements. As we discussed, the court would ask the Ministry of Land Management to measure the land,” Mr Hor said.
Local resident Pen Ponnaray, 60, who sat outside the court, claimed she was a victim in this land dispute.
Ms Ponnaray said the residents and monks at Samaki Raingsey Pagoda bought the land and houses from the old landowner with clear letters and documents.
“We hope the government will help solve this case for the people, because the people are poor, and have these shelters only. If there is no land, where would we live?” Ms Ponnaray said.
Owners Ta Vireak Sathya and Ta Ratha Phirum could not be reached for comment.
However, in the past they claimed to have purchased the land from 39 families living there in 1992, confirmed by the Steung Meanchey commune committee.
Former Steung Meanchey commune chief Seng Sanh declined to comment.
Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith said the re-hearing of this case was delayed without specifying a new date.
“The trial can proceed when we have an official letter from the Land Management Ministry’s expert officials,” he said.