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Former Second Deputy Commune Chief Chhay Rath was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly inciting villagers to clear and occupy state land in Preah Sihanouk province. FRESH NEWS
Former Second Deputy Commune Chief Chhay Rath was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly inciting villagers to clear and occupy state land in Preah Sihanouk province. Fresh News

Former SRP politician held over ‘incitement’

A former opposition second deputy commune chief in Sihanoukville was taken into custody and sent to pre-trial detention yesterday for allegedly inciting villagers at the area’s Kbal Chhay waterfall to clear and occupy state land.

Chhay Rath, who did not contest the recently concluded commune elections, was arrested after a Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court judge issued a warrant for him on the charge of “incitement to commit crimes” for the incident, which took place on September 20 last year.

Investigating Judge Plong Visal could not be reached yesterday, but Rath’s wife, Sam Sarath, said that the court questioned her husband only about his background, after which he was sent to jail.

As he was waiting to be taken to prison, Rath told The Post by phone that he had been wrongly charged, but said there was information about the incident that he could not reveal.

“There is a story. But I cannot say the story now. I do not like that they have accused me. So, I have nothing to be worried about,” he said on the phone.

CNRP lawyer Sam Sokong will represent Rath, but declined to comment as he had not received the case file.

The province’s Adhoc coordinator, Cheap Sotheary, said the clearing had occurred before officials confronted the villagers and that Rath was present at the site during a meeting between villagers and Provincial Governor Yun Min.

“He [Rath] said something but I don’t remember what, and he was filmed. And it was then broadcast on a Preah Sihanouk TV channel,” Sotheary said.

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