The Ministry of Interior will investigate claims from villagers that a NGO in Preah Vihear province, headed by a one star general, violated the rights of villagers, ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said Friday.
Several villagers who lived on the 556 hectare land concession complained Thursday that the NGO, which calls itself the Organization for Research and Curbing Drugs and AIDS, extorted money from them, prevented them from reporting crimes to authorities and that NGO workers beat villagers. In one case villagers said a 13-year-old girl was raped.
“We will investigate on this issue,” Lt Gen Khieu Sopheak said, adding that he learned about the case from the media.
“I was surprised when I heard this information. I encourage the victims’ families to file complaints to the authorities, local police, or Ministry of Interior to get justice,” he added.
He confirmed that the NGO is registered with the ministry and run by Brigadier General Pen Lim. If the allegations are proven, NGO officials will face prosecution and the NGO will lose its license, he said.
The Land Management Ministry said Thursday the NGO still lacked permission even to operate the concession.
Brig Gen Lim, who claimed to be in the bodyguard unit of Senate President Chea Sim, could not be reached for comment Friday but Thursday denied the accusations.
Mao Pov, Preah Vihear provincial police chief, said his police have so far not found anything criminal in their investigation.
Sat Savoeun, a villager representative, said Friday that next week she will file a complaint with the provincial court accusing the NGO of violating villagers’ human rights.
“If the court rejects our complaint we will file the complaint with the Interior Ministry,” she said.
She and six other villagers, who complained at a news conference organized by the rights group Adhoc, are afraid to return to their homes. Adhoc is also investigating the case.
“We are afraid to go back home. We will go back home when the [Adhoc] goes down there,” he said.
Sareth Boramy, who oversees social land concessions at the Ministry of Land Management, said he would contact provincial authorities on Monday about the case.
“I would like to find out what is the information…in reality,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)