Groups call for intervention over NGO

A human rights coalition yesterday called for immediate government intervention at a social land concession in Preah Vihear province after accusing staff at the NGO that runs it of evictions, beatings and rape.

In a report yesterday, the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee accused the Organization for Research and Curbing Drugs and Aids of evicting 57 families to make way for the concession, which CHRAC said was marred by cruelties including physical assault and intimidation.

Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said his ministry received a complaint in the case on Friday.

“Now we are processing this complaint to submit it to the minister,” he said.

ORCDA was granted a 556-hectare concession in Choam Ksan district’s Kantuot commune in 2008, but has since occupied another 180 hectares, according to CHRAC. Over 1,200 families from around the country were attracted to the concession with the promise of free land, but only 439 now remain after ORCDA sold the land and allegedly abused villagers, the report claimed.

“The villagers are living in fear because the agents of the organization use weapons at their will to threaten the villagers without reason,” the report said, adding that 11 villagers have also been summoned for questioning by the provincial court.

CHRAC called on the government to temporarily suspend the concession until a solution is reached, investigate two alleged rapes by NGO staff and end the use of weapons in the area.

“The government should take immediate action to save those people because they are now facing hunger, illness; especially women and children who are seriously affected,” the report stated.

The conclusions were based on a roughly 15-day investigation by the human rights group Adhoc, according to the report.

Brigadier General Pen Lim, director of the accused NGO and an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim, denied all accusations yesterday.

“I swear that lighting will kill me and I will be poor forever if I lie,” he said via telephone. “I did not sell the land or violate human rights.”

Mr Lim accused villagers of using fake thumbprints to file a complaint, and he denied that a staff member had raped the 13-year-old daughter of Khim Khon.

But at a news conference yesterday, Ms Khon reiterated her accusations, accusing Brig Gen Lim of beating her after learning that she filed a court complaint alleging rape.

“They said that when they see me they will kill me,” she said. “I am afraid to turn back home.”

Also at the conference, Por Mok said he was a member of one of the 57 families whose land was seized by the NGO in 2008.

“All the people have suffered about three years,” he said. “We could not farm on our land. They threatened the villagers if they planted rice. When we built houses they destroyed or burned the houses.”

  (Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)


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