Ethnic Minority Leader Emerges From Hiding

Almost a month after a Rata­na­k­kiri police officer was shot dead while trying to apprehend a man al­­leg­edly hired to kill her, the president of the Highlanders Associa­tion emerged from hiding and re­turned home Saturday.

Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Kham Khoeun has ordered local au­­­thorities to keep watch over ethnic minority leader Dam Chanthy, and human rights workers will be do­­ing the same, said Pen Bonnar, co­­­or­dinator of rights group Ad­hoc’s office in Ratanakkiri.

Dam Chanthy said despite her fears she plans to continue teaching ethnic minority villagers about their land rights later this week.

“I am still concerned about my safe­ty,” Dam Chanthy said Wed­nes­day. “But I cannot keep hiding with­out work.”

On July 15 and 16, two unidentified men visited Dam Chanthy’s farm in Bokeo district while she was away and allegedly said they had been hired to kill her.

Bokeo district deputy police chief Buth Sophat was allegedly shot and killed on July 17 by a man named Ny after police tried to question him about the death threats against Dam Chanthy. Ny es­­­caped after the shoot­ing.

On Aug 4, district police officers sur­­rounded Ny at a house. He was kil­­led following a gunfight with po­lice, deputy provincial police chief Hor Ang said.

Police have also arrested several other men in connection with Buth So­phat’s killing but have not said whe­ther they have found those who hired the would-be as­sassins.

Dam Chanthy said the assassination plot may have been related to her work. Efforts by the High­land­ers Association to educate ethnic mi­nority members about their land rights have brought them into conflict in the past.

This year, Ratanakkiri authorities threatened to shut the organi­za­tion down after minority villagers in O’Yadaw district organized peace­ful public protests in an effort to block a government move granting their ancestral lands as land con­cessions to a private company.


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