>Son Chhay ‘Versus’ Sok An: The Battle of the Two Political Heavyweights: Chhay Forced by Apsara Authority to Sell His Land

> Sok An (top) and Son Chhay (below).

Editorial by Khmerization:-The forcing of MP Son Chhay to sell his land by the Apsara Authority is another example of land grabbing and it shows that land disputes and land corruption had reached the top of the Cambodian leadership. If an MP can be forced to sell his land at peanut price, what else do the poor and the powerless had to defend themselves against such actions.
The Apsara Authority, which is under the chairmanship of Sok An, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia, is infamous for confiscating people’s land in Siem Reap. Reports coming out from Siem Reap is that any valuable land around the vicinity of the Angkor areas owned by ordinary people were confiscated by the Apsara Authority using the pretext that the lands are government-owned which had been earmarked for future tourist developments. But the fact of the matter is that the lands are confiscated by Sok An himself and later sold to foreign investors to develop golf courses.
It is a principle and is essential that Son Chhay decided to bring the matter to public and international attention, that is challenging the matter in court. Son Chhay’s court case should be a test case and a fight for all victims of illegal and forced evictions which have taken place through out the country. The court case, though might not be successful because the court is controlled by Sok An himself, should be fought relentlessly, vigorously and publicly.
Sok An cannot be allowed to exercise his powers without checks and balances. His decision to award concessions to Sok Kong’s company to collect tourist fees to Angkor Wat had received criticisms many times before from MP Son Chhay. In fact the Angkor Wat concession is a front for Sok An to connive with Sok Kong in the embezzlement of state revenue. There are approximately 1.5 million tourists visiting Angkor Wat every years. The revenue collected from tourists entry to Angkor Wat is equivalent to $30-$40 million annually, using a $20 fee for each tourist for the calculation. Only 1.5 million dollars of that money was paid to the state treasury. The question is: where do the other $28-$38 million go to? It surely ended up in Sok Kong’s and Sok An’s and Hun Sen’s pockets.
This kind of back-door corruption must not be allowed to continue unquestioned. And Son Chhay’s persistence in pursuing this case has incurred the ire of Sok An which led his Apsara Authority to force Son Chhay to sell his land at peanut price.
Back to Son Chhay’s land dispute, Son Chhay’s court fight is a fight for all victims of land confiscations. It is a symbol of civil disobedience and a fight for basic justice. The case will attract international and media attention because recent forced evictions had attracted widespread public attention, especially from Amnesty International.
The Apsara Authority will use the pretext of development for its reasons for forced evictions and forced sales. But development must be proceeded with regard to human rights and with the aim of poverty reduction. Land owners should be compensated to the value of the market price and an alternative place should be established for their new settlements. Development with forced evictions and land confiscations without being adequately compensated will lead to increase in poverty.
But the fact of the matter is that Sok An and Hun Sen will never care about the welfare of his poor subjects. What matters and what they care is how to fill their pockets with dollars. And the forcing of Son Chhay to sell his land at peanut price is in fact a land confiscation in disguise. And Son Chhay must fight and fight vigorously to the end. That is my advice. Good luck.//

Son Chhay Forced by Apsara Authority to Sell His Land
Son Chhay (top) Versus Sok An (below).The Battle of the Two Political Heavyweights. Who will win?

By Pov Ponlok,
Radio Free Asia
Translated by Khmerization.
The Sam Rainsy Party Member of Parliament, Mr. Son Chhay, has alleged that he was forced to sell his 3-hectare land in Siem Reap.The office of MP Son Chhay alleged that the Apsara Authority, which is under the control of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, had coerced the MP to sell his 3-hectare land to the Apsara Authority for the price of 50 cents per square metre.The same statement from Mr. Son Chhay’s office noted that the case will go the Appeal Court on Friday 15th of February 2008.Mr. Son Chhay’s office has appealed to all journalists to be presence in the court session to observe how the Appeal Court will solve his case in question on this Friday.
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