Ten land activists are set to be questioned today by Preah Vihear provincial court over their involvement in halting the drilling of a well in a community forest in November last year, rights monitors said yesterday.
Lor Chhan, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told the Post the activists were summoned by deputy prosecutor Long Sina for “interfering in public affairs”, and only learned about the lawsuit against them yesterday.
“More than 100 villagers stopped machinery from digging a well on communal land, but the court only called the 10 most prominent land activists who usually protest for justice,” he said yesterday, adding that the director of Boeng Per Wildlife Sanctuary, Koung Sambat, had filed a lawsuit and that the machinery being used on November 30 was owned by tycoon Try Pheap’s company, Try Pheap Import Export.
Deputy chief of Rovieng district Long Sitha disputed Chhan’s claim yesterday, saying that District Governor E Sarou had filed the complaint against the activists.
But according to Chhan, the villagers only received the summons and news of the lawsuit yesterday afternoon, leaving them only a day to prepare ahead of the questioning. The group has sought Adhoc’s assistance in providing lawyers and filing a request for the questioning to be pushed back to February 7.
Meas Kimyoeurn, 59, one of the 10 people being called in for questioning, said that villagers stopped the well from being dug on communally owned land on November 30, after which administrative staff from Pheap’s company arrived, along with authorities and Sambat, who helped mediate the dispute non-violently.
“We just protested against building the well on our land, because we are afraid of losing the land, but now they launched a lawsuit against us,” she said, adding that villagers received the summons on January 13, leaving them only a day to appear before the court.
Sarou and Hun Rattana, an administrative staffer employed by Try Pheap Import Export declined to comment.