Activist summoned on charges for unspecified actions
(CCHR/IFEX) - 26 January 2012 - San Samneang, a Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) affiliated human rights activist from Banteay Meanchey province, has been summonsed to appear at the Battambang Court on 30 January 2012 on charges of "intentional damage" and "intentional violence".
The summons - issued by Battambang prosecutor Nuon San on 18 January - contained no information regarding the nature of the actions said to have given rise to the charges, the date those actions are said to have taken place, the location where they are said to have occurred or the specific legal basis for the charges. San Samneang has concluded that the summons may relate to a gathering he organized in December 2009 in relation to a land dispute between a local business woman, Theth Phary, and community members from two villages straddling the Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provincial border, Boueng Pi village, Lvea commune, Bavel district, Battambang province, and Prasat Rang, Takong commune, Malai district, Banteay Meanchey province.
In December 2009 Theth Phary sent approximately 30 workers, together with armed police and military personnel, to harvest and collect rice in Boueng Pi village that is said to have been cultivated by villagers on the disputed land. Following this incident, San Samneang gathered over 70 villagers from Boueng Pi and Prasat Rang to protest Theth Phary's actions. San Samneang has said that the villagers in Boueng Pi have owned and farmed the land in question since 2002 but have encountered problems accessing it since management of the area was changed in 2006 from being under the administration of Battambang province to the administration of Banteay Meanchey province. Since 2006, local police have sought to prevent villagers from accessing the land, but the villagers have continued to farm it. Villagers from Prasat Rang joined the demonstration by the Boueng Pi villagers as they are said to fear that they too will be prevented from accessing their land.
San Samneang submitted a letter to the Battambang Court requesting that his questioning be delayed by ten days to allow him time to prepare. This request was denied, with a court official explaining that if San Samneang had the time to travel to the court to submit a letter requesting a delay, he had time to prepare himself for questioning by 30 January 2012.