JOINT ALERT: Three Rights Workers and One Journalist Summonsed to Appear at Ratanakkiri Court on Charges of Incitement
Joint Human Rights Defenders/Freedom of Expression Alert – Phnom Penh, 2 October 2012
On 1 October 2012, Ou Virak, President of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (“CCHR”), Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator and investigator from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (“ADHOC”), and Radio Free Asia (“RFA”) reporter, Sok Ratha, aka Ratha Visal, were summonsed by the deputy prosecutor at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court to appear for questioning on charges of incitement to commit a crime. The charges were based on a complaint by leading party commune chief Kith Chem and purportedly relate to allegations that the men incited members of an ethnic minority to protest violently against powerful agro-business company, D.M. Group, in 2009.
The complaint filed against the four men is assumed to be related to the ongoing land dispute in Lumphat district, Ratanakkiri province, between D.M. Group and 136 families of indigenous Tumpuan people, concerning a 260-hectare area of land. The conflict has involved the threatening and intimidation of villagers and legal charges against 10 representatives of the affected communities.
In 2009, a similar complaint was brought against Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha under the UNTAC Criminal Code, linked to work they carried out to assist villagers affected by the land dispute: ADHOC staff held community trainings on human rights law and non-violent means of dispute resolution in the area, while Sok Ratha reported on the case for RFA. Ou Virak was summonsed as a witness in the dispute and received implied threats of arrest and imprisonment.
In October 2011, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha, appeared at the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court for questioning on the charges dating back to 2009. Judge Thor Saron, who was believed to be a driving force behind the charges in 2009, had since retired and been replaced by Judge Loch Lao, giving rise to hopes that the case would be dropped. This was not the case at the time, however deputy prosecutor Ros Saram recently said that the court will drop the earlier charges next week, as they are not as serious as the new charges brought against the men.
Pen Bonnar has been summonsed to appear at the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on 10 October 2012 while Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha are due to appear the following day, on 11 October 2012, and Ou Virak has been called to appear one week later on 18 October 2012.
For more information, please contact Mr. Ou Virak, CCHR President via telephone on 012 40 40 51 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or Mr. Ny Chakrya, Head of ADHOC’s Monitoring Section via telephone on +855 011 274 959 or email: email@example.com