The judge who prompted the departure from Ratanakkiri province last year of Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Pen Bonnar, telling him to leave or risk being charged with incitement, said yesterday he plans to summon the well-known rights worker and a colleague to court for questioning.
“I will summon [Mr Bonnar] and his fellow [Chhai Ty] very soon to the courthouse with a lawyer because they have never shown up for my previous summons,” provincial court judge Thor Saran said yesterday by telephone.
Judge Saran’s announcement comes a little more than a week after Mr Bonnar’s returned to Ratanakkiri on Jan 1, with Adhoc President Thun Saray saying last week the organization had evidence to defend Mr Bonnar if he is summoned to court.
The alleged incitement relates to a land dispute in Lumphat district involving the company DM Group and 50 ethnic minority families. Judge Saran said he had discussed Mr Bonnar’s case with Mr Saray, who is currently visiting Ratanakkiri province.
“Mr Saray asked me about information involved with Mr Bonnar’s activities in the alleged incitement,” Mr Saran said yesterday. “Especially, he asked me for a mutual understanding between the court and the rights group,” he continued, declining to elaborate on what he meant by “understanding.”
“But I told him there is sufficient evidence from the court investigation to prove that the individual [Mr Bonnar] is strongly involved with incitement activities,” the judge added.
Mr Bonnar neither confirmed nor denied yesterday whether he and Mr Ty would appear in court if summoned.
“We are still discussing this issue,” Mr Bonnar said. “However, I can say that I have done nothing wrong. In particular, we have basic and thorough foundations to prove our innocence.”
Separately, four men accused of trespassing on DM Group’s property in Lumphat district have been re-summoned to court on Thursday after failing to show up last week. The villagers in Lumphat district are in a long-running land dispute with DM Group who they accuse of taking their ancestral lands. Mr Bonnar and Mr Ty are accused of incitement for their work in educating the minority villagers about their land rights under the law.
“I contacted their lawyer informing them to re-appear at court for questioning again on Thursday,” Judge Saran said.
Svev Vev, one of the four men, said the foursome now have a lawyer and plan to appear at the court.
“We will be accompanied by a defense lawyer so we are not concerned with possible arrest,” he said. Mr Vev has claimed that Judge Saran has pressured the villagers to stop talking to Adhoc regarding their plight.
Defense lawyer Long Lon confirmed that he was telephoned by the judge, who asked him to bring the four men to the court.
“I am sure they will not be arrested,” he said.
Ratanakkiri provincial Governor Pav Horm Phan confirmed that he too had met with Mr Saray.
“He told me about the arrival of Mr Bonnar,” the provincial governor said yesterday.
“There is no concern because of [Mr Bonnar’s] presence here,” he added.