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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights group sues ELC staff

Villagers inspect a deforested area in an economic land concession owned by Villas Development in Mondulkiri province
Villagers inspect a deforested area in an economic land concession owned by Villas Development in Mondulkiri province on Wednesday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Rights group sues ELC staff

Three rights monitors filed an attempted murder lawsuit against a Mondulkiri land concessionaire employee on Wednesday, after he violently denied them access to an area under investigation for forest crimes, Adhoc said yesterday.

Adhoc provincial coordinator Sok Rotha, 29, his assistant Bun Chantha, 49, and volunteer staffer Le Kao, 29, were approaching an area of forest owned by Villas Development – an economic land concession company co-owned by the wife of Deputy Governor Yoem Luch – on two motorbikes when a company car slammed into Chantha’s motorbike, Rotha said yesterday.

The driver of the car was a Villas development manager known as Khom, surname unknown, Rotha told the Post yesterday.

“He hit Chantha’s bike and ran straight towards us, so we slowed our [two] motorbikes down and pulled over,” Rotha said, alleging that Khom exited the vehicle and aggressively denied them access to the area without permission.

Following the event on Wednesday, all three Adhoc employees filed lawsuits against Khom for attempted murder and are seeking $10,000 in damages.

Adhoc’s offices in Phnom Penh issued a statement calling for the involvement of authorities in a full investigation into the incident yesterday.

Sen Monorom commune chief In Iev told the Post yesterday that he was unaware of the incident.

However Sao Vuthy, a provincial deputy prosecutor, confirmed that the court had received the lawsuit, but said a prosecutor had yet to be assigned to the case.

The stand-off comes on the heels of a second potentially violent confrontation in the province last week when seven police officers and a WWF staffer narrowly escaped a stand-off with illegal loggers, while a soldier who was accompanying the group claimed he received death threats from military police connected to the logging operation.

Chhith Sam Ath, country director for WWF-Cambodia, expressed grave concern for the wellbeing and security of staff working in the area.

“The investigation is ongoing and we’re doing everything we can to get to the bottom of what happened,” Sam Ath said in an email yesterday.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE

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