An outspoken activist with local rights group Adhoc is expected to appear in Ratanakkiri provincial court today for questioning over a lawsuit filed against him accusing him of providing false information about a land dispute with local ethnic minority villagers, Thun Sary, Adhoc president, said Wednesday.
The complaint against Pen Bonnar, Adhoc coordinator for Ratanakkiri province, stems from comments he allegedly made to Radio Free Asia after interviewing villagers in O’Chum district’s Ekkapheap commune on Saturday, who said they had been forced off land by a concession holder, Thun Saray said.
“We don’t know yet what kind of complaint has been filed,” Thun Saray said. “We have to wait and see…today what is happening, whether they prosecute Bonnar or not,” he said, adding that the complaint appears to have been filed by the concession holder.
On Tuesday, Pen Bonnar reported that villagers in the commune had said that they were forced to accept paltry compensation for the destruction of crops on the contested land concession.
Mey Sokhan, Ratanakkiri provincial court prosecutor, said the complaint was made by a man identified as Khit Sok Phay.
Khit Sok Phay could not be contacted on Wednesday. Mey Sokhan did not provide details of the case against the rights worker.
Thun Saray said Pen Bonnar recorded the villagers’ statements regarding the concession, and feels confident about the court appearance.
“Bonnar protects the victims of land grabbing…. Without Bonnar they can grab the land easily,” Thun Saray said.
Pen Bonnar said he thought the complaint was an attempt to intimidate him from pursuing his work.
“They discourage me in order to be comfortable in grabbing villagers’ land. But I am not scared or worried because all life will end someday. No life is forever,” Pen Bonnar said.