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Adhoc activist, reporter receive lawsuit threat from R’kiri judge

But UN rights office calls for an end to intimidation campaign by officials.

A RATANAKKIRI provincial judge has warned that rights activist Pen Bonnar and journalist Ratha Visal could face disinformation charges relating to a land dispute in the province, a day after the UN’s human rights office called for the government to end its “harassment” of rights activists in the province.

Presiding Judge Thor Saron told the Post on Tuesday that the two men could be charged with disinformation for allegedly accusing him of corruption.

Thor Saron said the two men have accused him of offering to release detained villagers in exchange for a large tract of land in Ratanakkiri, but did not say where or when the comments were made.

“These two men will face another charge of disinformation for accusing me of being a corrupt man and of [promising to] release those accused in return for 70 hectares of land, which is now being investigated by provincial authorities to find out the truth,” he said.

Pen Bonnar, the provincial coordinator of local rights group Adhoc, has already been warned that he faces incitement charges in connection with a protest over a separate land dispute in November 2007 but has not yet been formally charged by the court.

Ratha Visal also came under similar pressure from the court after covering the Pen Bonnar affair for Radio Free Asia.

In a strongly worded statement released on Monday, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights requested an end to the prosecution of Pen Bonnar and Ratha Visal.

It said that the two had been “harassed and intimidated by both provincial authorities and the court in relation to their tireless struggle to defend the rights of communities dispossessed of their land and livelihoods in the northeastern province”.

“The office reiterates its earlier call on provincial authorities to cease continued harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in the province,” the statement said.

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