Preah Vihear Villagers Detained Over Complaint Against General’s NGO

A Preah Vihear Provincial Court judge yesterday charged three residents of a social land concession for accusing staff of the NGO that runs the concession of land grabbing, extortion and rape.

Court director and judge Sor Savuth said he charged the trio with incitement, disinformation and forgery for adding names to their complaint against the NGO without the owners’ consent.

He said Sath Savoeun, 44, Kim Sophal, 41, and Srey Sophan, 62 were sent to the provincial prison for detention immediately afterward.

The villagers brought their complaints against the Organization for Research and Curbing Drugs and Aids- an NGO registered to Brigadier General Pen Lim with a 556-hectare land concession in Choam Ksan district- to the attention of rights group Adhoc in May. Complaints to district and provincial authorities- including the court- followed.

According to Mr Savuth, however, other residents of the land concession filed their own complaint against the complainants, accusing them of misusing their names next to false thumbprints.

“We found that the thumbprints did not belong to the people who [the petitioners claimed] thumbprinted the document,” the judge said.

Mr Savuth said he had already found four people who said their names had been misused and was searching for more.

Mr Savuth said he had investigated the original complaints against the NGO- the claims of land grabbing, extortion and rape- but declined to discuss his findings. He also declined to identify those who countersued.

Brig Gen Lim, who claims to be an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim, could not be reached for comment yesterday but has previously denied any part in the lawsuit and rejected all accusations against his NGO.

The defendants’ lawyer, Long Lun, denounced the court’s decision.

“I cannot accept the decision of the court,” he said. “The court did not take any action on the complaints that the victims filed several times about beatings and rapes by the [NGO]; it only took action against the three villagers.”

Adhoc senior monitor Chan Soveth also accused the court of applying a double standard. The rights group corroborated the villagers’ complaints after a 15-day site visit last month.

“It is not justice for them,” he said of the defendants. “The court did not investigate clearly before making its decision.”

Mr Lun, their lawyer, said he would make an official request for their release on bail today.

Mr Savuth, however, said his request would have little chance.

“I think that I will not allow them to be released on bail because I am working on [the case],” he said. “We will do a lot more investigating.”


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