Land activist tried in absentia on decade-old incitement charge

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 14 heard the case of a land rights activist charged with incitement for her involvement in a long-running dispute in Kampong Chhnang province, although she did not attend the trial for fear of arrest.

The Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court charged defendant Oum Sophy with incitement to commit a felony for allegedly encouraging villagers to cultivate contested land in 2008. Former Lor Peang Village Chief Touch Ly and former Ta Ches Commune Councilor Suos Siphai were also charged. Ly attended the hearing as three witnesses had provided exculpatory evidence in her case, while Siphai died of illness in 2010.

Sophy, 41, said by telephone on the day of her hearing that the provincial court had issued an arrest warrant for her after charging her with incitement in August 2008. She said she had traveled to Phnom Penh with plans to attend the trial, but became too concerned over the risk of arrest.

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