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Court Charges Alleged Land-Grabbers

Ratanakkiri provincial court charged seven people Thursday for allegedly falsifying documents and other fraudulent activities to back illegal land purchases.

The suspects pretended to be important military officials with the backing of Prime Minister Hun Sen. They were detained after questioning this morning, Ros Sarang, deputy prosecutor for the province, said.

They face sentences between 5 years and 15 years if found guilty.

“The prosecutor decided to charge seven people over falsifying public documents [claiming to be from] Prime Minister Hun Sen and wearing a military uniform without orders,” he said. “They had the technology to make false documents without original documents.”

The arrests sent a strong signal to “wrongdoers,” said Penn Bunna, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc in Ratanakkiri.

Thousands of hectares of forest in the province have been destroyed by illegal logging and other businesses, he said.

“This is the first case that provincial authorities have done successfully,” he said. “This time there is a commitment and willingness by the provincial authorities to arrest seven people with success.”