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Journalist lied, villagers claim

More than 300 families embroiled in a land dispute with notorious, and now defunct, NGO Darpo said yesterday that they had filed complaints to the Preah Vihear Provincial Court on Wednesday accusing a Koh Santepheap reporter of disinformation and calling for his arrest and $4,000 in compensation.

Village representatives Sath Savoeun, Srey Sophan and Kim Sophal of Kantuot commune in Choam Ksan district alleged that a series of purportedly false articles by Try Vantha misrepresented the trio’s involvement in the land dispute, amounting to disinformation and incitement, and that in the course of his reporting, Vantha accepted bribes from Darpo – which villagers have accused of rape, forced eviction and a host of other abuses while it was managing a social land concession.

The complaint cites three articles that alleged that the representatives took land from Darpo, then claimed to never have received it and bought thumbprints for a petition by promising villagers mini-tractors and food.

The latest claimed that Adhoc and certain politicians were manipulating the trio into falsifying thumbprints.

“We are suffering from this accusation, and we have no one controlling us,” said representative Savoeun, who accused Vantha of taking land from Darpo as a bribe, and added that villagers supported her “100 per cent”.

Villager Veth Oen agreed the articles were false and that representatives had never promised them anything.

Lor Chan, provincial co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, denied his group’s involvement, calling Adhoc a legitimate organisation, not a behind-the-scenes manipulator.

Vantha said yesterday he was unaware of the lawsuit but said that his information came from villagers and the authorities.

Koh Santepheap editor Pol Saroeun was surprised to hear of the complaint. “It’s their right, but they should send us something to ask for clarification,” he said, declining to comment further. 

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at seangly.phak@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance of Chhay Channyda

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