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Community activists report judicial harassment in Kep Thmey village

(CCHR/IFEX) - 7 December 2011 - Two community members from Kep Thmey fishing village have received summons for allegedly inciting community members against a private development project. The precise provision under which they have been summoned is, at the time of writing, unknown. Mrs. Chan Dara and Mrs. Chan Sophanna are active community representatives of Kep Thmey village, where residents are embroiled in a land dispute relating to a development project. The two activists were initially due to appear before prosecutors in early October 2011, but their summons dates were postponed to 8 December 2011 on the request of the two women.

The women have conducted advocacy strategies on behalf of their afflicted community, such as collecting thumbprints from community members, submitting petitions to members of the National Assembly, rallying community members to protest, and appealing to the Prime Minister to address their concerns over the development project. Chan Dara has stated that she and other community members have faced intimidation from local authorities while protesting against the development project, with authorities summoning them to the provincial administrative office and questioning them in a threatening manner.

According to the report "Still Losing Ground" (2010), published by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, Kep Thmey village is involved in a larger dispute involving three villages in the commune and two companies - Kampot Port, owned by Vinh Huor, and Keo Chea Property Development. Kampot Port and Keo Chea Property Development were granted permission to fill in 1,000 hectares of ocean in Roluos village and 200 hectares in Kep Thmey and Totung Thnay villages respectively to make way for the construction of two new ports. The 200-hectare reclamation effort is said to affect the residents of Kep Thmey and Torteung Thngaiy villages, most of whom rely on local fisheries, putting up to 1,000 livelihoods at risk. Villagers say that at least 80 percent of the area's residents depend on the community fishing zone for their survival, that they do not have big boats in which to fish far out to sea, and that they rely on fishing in shallow water using traditional methods. The reclamation efforts could undermine their cultural and economic livelihoods by denying them access to vital coastal fishing sites.

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