Rights group Adhoc on Wednesday filed complaints against a Siem Reap Provincial Court deputy prosecutor and an investigating judge over their role in jailing two men who protested against a community group that cleared land in their village.
Adhoc held a press conference Wednesday at their headquarters in Phnom Penh to announce it was commencing legal action on behalf of the villagers against deputy provincial prosecutor Sok Keobandith and investigating Judge Ky Rithy for incorrectly implementing procedures in the case.
According to Adhoc, Community Takhmao Development Agricultural & Industrial was granted a 419-hectare social land concession in Siem Reap’s Varin district in 2012, but instead began clearing land in the province’s Svay Loeu district last year.
Ny Chakrya, Adhoc’s head of monitoring, said residents in the affected Kantuot commune’s Chup Romdeng village protested against the arrival of the group, then attempted to sue it for clearing the land but were countersued.
Village representatives Boeun Sok and Ven Lorn were then jailed in January by the provincial court on charges of aggravated property damage with intent relating to the dispute.
Mr. Chakrya said the group’s entitlement to develop the land and the evidence used by the provincial court to imprison the two farmers, who are awaiting trial, was false.
“Based on the statement published by the prosecutor’s own office, the concession the community group received was 419 hectares of land in Rolom Runthmey village,” Mr. Chakrya said, which he added was far away from the land they were actually farming.
“Basically, they arrested the people in a different location to the concession’s land,” he said.
“Today, we want to show that we won’t accept what the deputy prosecutor and the investigating judge [have done],” he said, adding that Adhoc has clear evidence that the two men had been imprisoned as a result of false allegations against them.
The rights group had already filed complaints to the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Court, he said, and two further complaints would be filed with the Supreme Council of Magistracy and the Appeal Court.
The Siem Reap Provincial Court’s prosecutor’s office section issued a statement on May 15 in response to a press conference Adhoc held in Siem Reap three days earlier, warning “all news networks and social [media] to stop publishing disinformation” and saying it would “take action on all people or all actions that affect national unity.”
Mr. Keobandith, the deputy provincial prosecutor, could not be reached Wednesday, and provincial prosecutor Keut Vannareth declined to comment.
(Additional reporting Simon Henderson)