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Cambodia: Human rights defenders Messrs Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha summoned for questioning for their land rights work
Human rights defenders Mr Ou Virak, Mr Pen Bonnar, Mr Chhay Thy, and Mr Sok Ratha have been summoned to appear for questioning on charges of incitement to commit a crime.
Ou Virak was summoned to the court on 8 October 2012 while the other three defenders appeared in the court the following day. The deputy prosecutor spent around fifteen minutes questioning each one of them. They were subsequently allowed to leave, but no decision has been taken whether or not the case will be dropped.
Ou Virak is President of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy are provincial coordinator and investigator of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and Sok Ratha is a reporter with Radio Free Asia who regularly reports about land rights violations cases in Cambodia.
The human rights defenders have been summoned by Mr Chea Sopheak, the deputy prosecutor at Ratannakiri Provincial Court, on the basis of a complaint reportedly submitted by Mr Kith Chem, the commune chief of the Cambodian Peoples' Party in Batang village, Lumphat District, Ratannakiri Province. Kith Chem alleges that Ou Virak, Pen Bonnar, Chhay Thy and Sok Ratha have incited members of an ethnic group to violently protest against agro-business group D.M. Group in 2009. The complaint filed against the four human rights defenders is reportedly related to the ongoing land dispute in Lumphat district between D.M. Group and 136 families of indigenous Tumpuan people concerning a 260-hectare area of land.
Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy have been investigating the land conflict between local ethnic minority groups since 1998. In 2007, the villagers from the disputed land complained to ADHOC that the company had illegally grabbed their land. Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy were assigned by ADHOC to help with the legal consultation.