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Mondulkiri villagers to testify over alleged threat

Mondulkiri villagers to testify over alleged threat

FOUR ethnic Phnong villagers have been summoned to appear at Mondulkiri provincial court on Thursday to testify against a military official who allegedly threatened to shoot them after the villagers detained nine Vietnamese loggers on January 13.

Provincial prosecutor Im Sophan said the summons – dated January 26 – requested the presence of villagers Khan Channy, Yot Pok, Khveuk Krong and Chas Ngeh.

Khan Channy, 24, said Monday that she expected the court to find justice for her and the others, adding that they were afraid of reprisals from military police. “I heard that [the defendant] wanted to exact revenge, but we also heard that he went into hiding,” she said.

The summons stems from a complaint filed by local rights group Adhoc with the Court of Appeal on behalf of the villagers against a military official identified only as “Prem”.

A separate complaint is pending against prosecutor Im Sophan.

According to the complaints, two groups of villagers accosted two separate bands of Vietnamese loggers in Cambodian territory last month. The first group of villagers detained five loggers, and the second group, which was allegedly accompanied by Im Sophan, detained four, villagers say.

According to villagers, when military police officers, including “Prem”, came to see the prisoners, they said the villagers had no right to make arrests and threatened to shoot them.

The Vietnamese men were released late Wednesday, allegedly at the orders of Im Sophan and the military police, a move that dismayed the villagers.

Chhay Thy, provincial monitor for Adhoc, said that although his organisation was still investigating Im Sophan, it had yet to send the complaint against him to the Justice Ministry because the prosecutor had promised villagers that he would handle the complaint against the military official in exchange for his complaint being dropped.

Im Sophan denied the accusations against him, saying he saw no one in the forest on January 13.

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