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Foreign Investor Flees With Villa Money

A foreign land developer who allegedly bilked dozens of victims out of money for villas has fled the country, Prime Minsiter Hun Sen announced Monday.

Long Chhin, who allegedly built villas on land that belonged to the government, has taken the money and fled, Hun Sen announced at a public conference in the capital.

The government had meant to allow fill and development on 10 hectares of land in the Kab Srew lake area north of Phnom Penh, but Long Chhin built villas on up to hundreds of hectares. He sold the villas and fled when the government moved to take the land back.

The government has since destroyed the villas, leaving those who bought them without their money or new homes.

"In the end Long Chhin disappeared, and his whereabouts are unknown," Hun Sen said. "Long Chhin took big land, as big as the sky."

Hun Sen has been fighting the public perception that land grabbing and theft are on the rise. The land-theft issue has become a political flashpoint, as Cambodia heads into national elections next year.

Opposition legislator Son Chhay called the government's efforts to stop Long Chhin's crime weak, claiming his company's bank was protected while he was living in Cambodia and no efforts were made to keep him in the country.

Kek Galabru, founder of the rights group Licadho, said Long Chhin's company should compensate the people. Or the government.

"The company's owner fled," she said. "No one compensated the people. So the government demolished the constructions that the people already paid for. I believe that the government should have compassion for the people. They should not lose money."