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Vague charges for Cambodian NGO official

In a mysteriously vague citation, Adhoc monitoring head Chan Saveth has been called to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to face charges of “providing assistance to specific perpetrators”.

Although the court’s summons, which asks Saveth to appear on August 24, provides no specifics as to the “perpetrators” in question, a court official who spoke to the Post on condition of anonymity said the term was a reference to Bun Ratha and his associates.

Ratha was accused of being a “secessionist” and inciting villagers in a land dispute in May that led to the death of a teenage girl in Kratie province. The death came only weeks after environmentalist Chut Wutty was shot dead in Koh Kong province.

Investigating Judge Chhe Virak, who signed the court’s letter, and Chiv Keng, president of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Chan Saveth could also not be reached for comments.

But Ny Chakrya, head of the monitoring section of Adhoc, said he was surprised with the court’s summons and the charges against Saveth.

Chakrya added that according to his observations of Saveth’s works and activities, he had not broken any laws in Cambodia and was a good staff member at Adhoc.

“I am now wondering what proof or evidence or offence that the court has accused him of, and then charged him with,” he said yesterday.

He called the summons a vaguely concealed threat against groups doing work similar to Adhoc’s.

“Through this court’s action, it has shown that now there is no safety for human rights groups in Cambodia. And we are very concerned about this,” he said.

In a statement released by Adhoc yesterday, the group expressed its deepest concern over the citation issued by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

“This move by the judicial authorities can be seen as nothing other than an attempt to intimidate human rights defenders and prevent them from carrying out their legitimate activities,” the statement reads.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

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