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Questioning delayed in Preah Vihear NGO case

Questioning delayed in Preah Vihear NGO case

THE questioning of three villagers who have accused an NGO of human rights violations has been postponed until September 16, officials said yesterday.

The villagers – Sath Savoeun, 45, Kim Sophal, 41, and Srey Sophan, 62, all of Preah Vihear’s Choam Khsan district – were to be questioned yesterday after being accused of incitement, fraud and disinformation.

On Tuesday, the villagers asked the provincial court to delay the hearing, saying they feared arrest if they appeared at the court. Sor Savuth, the provincial court director and investigating judge in the case, said previously that the hearing would go ahead.

But yesterday he announced the court had agreed to the postponement. “We have delayed ... because we do not want to hear that we have tried to intimidate them,” he said.

“We have rescheduled the date for September 16 so that they can come along with their lawyers.”

The three villagers are part of a group in Choam Khsan district’s Kantout commune who say they have been terrorised by staff members from the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, an NGO run by a one-star general.

Rights groups say employees of the NGO, which received a 556-hectare social land concession in Choam Ksan in 2007, have issued threats, forced dozens of families off their land and even raped local residents.

Kim Sophal, one of the three accused, said yesterday that he was innocent of the allegations, but that it still “did not feel good” to see his name on the summons order.

“Their accusations are baseless,” he said.

DARPO Director Pen Loem, who also serves as an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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