AUTHORITIES in Ratanakkiri province’s Lumphat district disrupted a monthly ethnic Jarai community meeting on Saturday to inform its participants that future meetings would be forbidden without written permission from the provincial governor, community representatives said on Sunday.
Sim Ry, a Jarai representative from La Bang Mouy commune, said that villagers were surprised by the sudden arrival of local police. “We have always conducted monthly meetings to talk about issues like forest protection and domestic violence,” he said. “But yesterday, commune police came to the meeting with orders from the district governor to check for an approval letter, saying that unless we had such a letter they would break up the meeting.”
Pao Vil, La Bang Muoy commune chief, said that he could assure provincial authorities that their suspicions were misplaced. “The reason the police asked for a permission letter was because they were afraid that our meetings would address more than just community issues,” he said.
Kong Sruon, governor of Lumphat district, said authorities just wanted to know the purpose of the meetings, “to the extent that we ... need to know what happens in our district”.