Court Dismisses Rights Groups’ Complaints

The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court has dismissed two complaints submitted by two local human rights groups, Adhoc and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), against local officials who they alleged had de­famed and intimidated their staff, court officials said Friday.

Adhoc filed a complaint against Pheng Maing, a village chief in Lumphat district’s Batang commune, for defamation in July 2012 after he publicly accused the organization of inciting villagers to rebel against authorities.

CCHR also filed a complaint against Batang commune chief Kith Chem and commune police chief Blan Nea for intimidation when local officials forcefully broke up a training session on land rights organized by the NGO in July 2012.

Provincial deputy prosecutor Ros Saram said Friday the court decided to drop the two complaints because the incidents involving local government officials did not lead to any violence.

“One of the many reasons behind the decision to drop the charges is that the court prosecutor found that while there was verbal ar­gument between rights groups with local authorities, it did not end in violence nor did it cause any penal offense,” Mr. Saram said.

Both rights group could appeal if they are not satisfied with the de­cision, he added.

Pen Bonnar, Adhoc senior investigator who was previously the group’s provincial coordinator in Ratanakkiri, said it was unacceptable for the court to drop the complaints.

Adhoc received a letter from the court on Friday announcing the dismissal of the complaint, dated September 11.

“We will appeal to the Appeal Court because this is a critical hu­man rights violation that these local officials have intimidated and interrupted community meetings with rights groups,” Mr. Bonnar said.

Mr. Chem, the commune chief accused of intimidation, said he was happy that the complaint had been dismissed.

“The incident where we stopped their workshop was be­cause they didn’t inform authorities about it. So their complaints are just an exaggeration,” he said.

Chhay Thy, Adhoc provincial co­ordinator, said the court’s ac­ions were unsurprising.

“There’s been a number of complaints accusing local authorities of selling community forest land or selling community land that have been dropped by the provincial court,” Mr. Thy said.

In 2009, Mr. Chem filed a suit against Mr. Bonnar, Mr. Thy, the president of the CCHR, Ou Virak, and radio journalist Sok Ratha. The suit accused the four men of defamation and of inciting ethnic-minority Tampuon villagers to protest violently against the DM Group rubber company. The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court eventually dropped the charges last December.

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