Human rights defenders and journalist summoned to court to answer two-year-old "incitement" charges
(CCHR/IFEX) - 12 October 2011 - Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy, two human rights defenders working for the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), and Ratha Visal, a journalist with Radio Free Asia (RFA), are due at the Ratanakiri Provincial Court in north east Cambodia tomorrow, 13 October, to answer incitement charges dating back to 2009.
The charges arise from the work the three men have carried out in relation to a land dispute in Patang village, Lumphat district, Ratanakiri province over an area of 260 hectares of land involving a private company, D.M. Group, and 136 indigenous Tumpuon people. Pen Bonnar and Chhay Thy have been active in this case, providing training to the villagers on their human rights relating to land and natural resources and on non-violent means of dispute resolution. The charges against Ratha Visal arise from his journalistic work covering the dispute for RFA.
The charges against the three men were originally announced in 2009 by Judge Thor Saron, who has since retired and been replaced in this case as investigating judge by Judge Loch Lao. Judge Thor Saron was the subject of an investigation by the Supreme Council of Magistracy, the body constitutionally mandated to investigate delinquent judges, in 2009 following a complaint letter to His Majesty King Sihamoni from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights in connection to allegations made against Judge Thor Saron via the media in relation to his handling of this and another case in Ratanakiri province.
According to a statement from ADHOC, the allegations against the three men were made by a village representative under pressure from Judge Thor Saron.