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Investigation of advocate set to restart

THE stalled investigation of a prominent human rights activist in Ratanakkiri province will recommence later this month, provincial judge Thor Saron said Sunday.

Pen Bonnar, acting Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, is facing possible incitement charges along with Adhoc investigator Chhay Thy in connection with a November 2007 land dispute in the province involving the DM Group, which is developing a rubber plantation. Pen Bonnar was removed from his Ratanakkiri post in July of last year to avoid the charges, but returned last month despite the looming threat of legal action against him.

Thor Saron, who threatened both Pen Bonnar and Radio Free Asia journalist Ratha Visal in September with disinformation charges for accusing him of corruption, said his investigation would go forward despite facing continual delays.

“I will renew my investigation of incitement by the Adhoc provincial coordinator and his investigator at the end of February,” Thor Saron said, chalking up delays to a busy schedule.

“I cannot predict when the investigation will be completed, but once it is completed, it will be sent to a trial judge to schedule a trial date against the men,” Thor Saron added.

Pen Bonnar said he was unconcerned about the investigation, noting the statements of support he has received in relation to the case from the UN and other organisations.

“We have abided by the law from the beginning to end without inciting people,” he said.

“The people themselves sought intervention from local authorities to keep DM Group from encroaching on their land, but that failed, so they turned to our organisation for help.”

In October, the Ministry of Justice launched its own investigation of Thor Saron, after he was accused of using a pickup truck confiscated as evidence in an unrelated murder case.

However, it was ruled that the judge’s behaviour did not warrant punitive action, a decision that rights groups said set a “horrible precedent”.

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