4 Involved in R’kiri Land Dispute Called In for Causing ‘Insecurity’

Ratanakkiri Provincial Court on Monday summoned four ethnic minority Tampoun villagers to be questioned on Friday for allegedly causing “insecurity” while on bail in a long-running land dispute, a court official said yesterday.

“The four have been allegedly causing insecurity, which could lead to an offense or crimes,” said Thor Saran, the court’s deputy president, adding that this would violate the conditions of the bail granted in July of last year.

The court issued a summons on Monday for Sven Vev, Yang Thang, Nit Than and Shay Khamnear after local authorities alleged last week that they were spreading insecurity in Lumphat district’s Batang commune, Judge Saran said.

Batang commune chief Kith Chem said he asked the court to sum­mon the men for re-education “because they collected thumbprints from local villagers secretly without informing authorities.” He added that such secrecy “must be really harmful with bad intentions.”

Asked if the petition was the reason for the summons, Judge Saran said, “It was OK to collect fingerprints, but those [men] are involved with other allegations of causing insecurity.” He declined to elaborate.

The men were among 10 Tum­poun villagers charged in 2008 with trespassing and destroying rubber tree saplings belonging to the DM Group.

Villagers have filed two complaints with the court, the first in 2005 and a second in 2009, accusing the company of seizing 260 hectares of their land. Mr Vev, one of the summoned men, said he and the other three villagers collected fingerprints from 45 affected families to petition the court to hasten resolution of the dispute.

“Such activities are not an offense or serious crime that could lead to social insecurity,” he said, adding that the court was being used “to silence land protesters.”

Mr Vev said he and the other three men planned to appear in court and were contacting their lawyers to see if they were available on Friday.

Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the human rights group Ad­hoc, said he had received information that Mr Chem, the commune chief, had “in­timidated” villagers who gave their fingerprints. How­ever, Mr Chem said yesterday that he had only visited villagers to make innocuous inquiries.

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