A forestry activist in Oddar Meanchey province has gone into hiding after unidentified assailants threw a homemade grenade at his home July 21 night, officials and a rights worker said July 22.
Chan Soveth, investigator for local rights group Adhoc, alleged that the attack was an attempt to kill Sat Savuth, who is a community activist for land and forestry issues in Anlong Veng district’s Phlat commune, in retribution for his work.
Sat Savuth has informed Adhoc that he saw a group of four people approach his home at around 11:30 pm July 21and throw the grenade at his front door, though they missed, so the explosion did not harm anyone, Chan Soveth said.
Sat Savuth had come to Anlong Veng in 2005 for protection on the advice of rights groups after his life was threatened by people angered by his earlier Kompong Thom province forestry activism in Sandan district’s Tomring commune, Chan Soveth said.
Tomring commune figured prominently in forestry watchdog Global Witness’ controversial June 1 report, which alleged that a company connected to senior government officials had been involved in illegal logging there. Government officials have denied the report’s allegations.
Sat Savuth was reportedly staying in a safe house provided by rights groups on July 22.
Anlong Veng governor Yoem Phanna confirmed the grenade attack and pledged to investigate but said he had not yet received details from the police.
“It must be a revenge case,” he said. “It was not politically motivated.”
District police chief Suy Seng said he was too busy to comment on the case.
Chan Soveth said he believed the attack was an attempt to kill Sat Savuth for his activism on land issues.
“Our initial investigation found that the grenade attack was perpetrated because he helped the villagers with land disputes,” Chan Soveth said. “Or it might be revenge from Tomring commune.”
The grenade attack comes only weeks after Seng Sarorn, an Adhoc activist and forestry and fisheries community chief, was shot dead at his home in Stung Treng province. Seng Sarorn died instantly on July 4 when an assailant fired a shot at him from beneath the floor of his wooden stilt house.