Ten legal aid attorneys on Wednesday submitted statements to the Cambodian Bar Association rebutting charges that they had incited Jarai minority villagers involved in a long-running land dispute with Keat Kolney over 450 hectares in Ratanakkiri province.
Keat Kolney, Finance Minister Keat Chhon’s sister, filed a complaint with the bar association last week, charging seven lawyers from the Community Legal Education Center and three from Legal Aid of Cambodia with inappropriately lobbying, inciting, and providing cash to the villagers.
“We support all of our lawyers’ actions in this case, and are certain that they operated well within the Code of Ethics and Bar Regulations,” LAC and CLEC said in a statement released Thursday.
“LAC and CLEC have full confidence that the [bar association] will dismiss the complaint after it has heard both sides and weighed the merits of Keat Kolney’s complaint,” the statement added.
Bar spokesman Nou Tharith said Thursday he had received the lawyers’ responses and Bar President Ky Tech had agreed to meet with the lawyers, at their request, on July 4. The two legal aid groups also condemned the criminal suits Keat Kolney apparently filed against the lawyers and their clients at Ratanakkiri Provincial Court.
LAC Director Peung Yok Hiep said that she had not yet seen the complaints, but had heard about them through a source she declined to reveal.
In their statement the two groups said they understand that Keat Kolney had filed two criminal complaints with the Ratanakkiri provincial prosecutor June 21, one that accuses the villagers of cheating and fraud and another that accuses CLEC and LAC lawyers of incitement. “By providing vigorous legal advice and protection to their clients, the lawyers in this case have not committed any crime,” the legal aid groups said in the statement.
Keat Kolney’s lawyer, Chhe Vibol, said Thursday: “The villagers have the right to sue, and my client also has the right to sue. It is up to the bar association to handle it.”