Well-known human rights worker Chan Soveth is in the firing line again, a court official in Pursat province confirmed on Friday.
Mr. Soveth, who last year was accused by the government of helping a member of a so-called anti-government movement in Kratie province evade arrest, is now being investigated for his alleged role in the so-called “incitement” of villagers involved in a land dispute, and for spreading so-called “disinformation.”
Pursat provincial court Prosecutor Tan Seihak Dechak said the allegations have been leveled by a commune chief against Mr. Soveth, who is chief of monitoring for prominent local human rights group Adhoc, and “his accomplices,” who are not defined by name in the complaint.
Mr. Seihak Dechak also said that earlier reports naming Adhoc’s Pursat provincial coordinator Phuong Sothea as the suspect in the case were incorrect.
“The commune chief filed against Chan Soveth and his accomplices. It is not the name Phuong Sothea,” the prosecutor said. “We will continue to investigate more details about this, and we will summon both parties for questioning.”
Mr. Soveth, who had the charges of “aiding a perpetrator” in the Kratie province case dropped against him by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in February, said on Friday that he had not yet received formal notice that he is being investigated again.
“I don’t incite people against the government. I just explain about [peoples’] rights and the law,” he said.
“If I just help people as a human rights workers, is it wrong? If so, then all NGOs that help protect peoples’ rights are wrong too,” he said.
Prom Ngon, commune chief of Thma Da commune in Veal Veng district, and complainant against Mr. Soveth, could not be reached for comment.
The complaint is believed to stem from a land dispute between families in Tham Da commune and a company owned by well-known businessman Try Pheap.
Adhoc staff held workshops with the villagers to inform them of their rights under the land law. About 20 of the families subsequently traveled to Phnom Penh to submit a petition to Mr. Hun Sen’s Cabinet seeking help in their dispute with Mr. Pheap.
Um Savin, a representative of MDS Import Export company, which is owned by Mr. Pheap, said his company was not involved in any way with the lawsuit filed by Mr. Ngon, the commune chief, against Mr. Soveth and “his accomplices.”
“Our company is not involved in this case,” he said.